1. Amid pandemic, future of many Catholic schools is in doubt, By David Crary, Associated Press, August 10, 2020

As the new academic year arrives, school systems across the United States are struggling to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic. Catholic educators have an extra challenge — trying to forestall a relentless wave of closures of their schools that has no end in sight.

Already this year, financial and enrollment problems aggravated by the pandemic have forced the permanent closure of more than 140 Catholic schools nationwide, according to officials who oversee Catholic education in the country.

Three of the nation’s highest-ranking Catholic leaders, in a recent joint appeal, said Catholic schools “are presently facing their greatest financial crisis” and warned that hundreds more closures are likely without federal support.


2. Pope may be key to preserving Italy’s social compact on abortion, By John L. Allen Jr., Crux, August 10, 2020, Opinion

Italy has enjoyed almost forty years of uneasy political peace on the abortion issue, ever since the procedure was legalized in 1978 during the first 90 days of pregnancy.

Ever since, there’s been a basic social compact: Women and doctors aren’t going to jail over abortion, but it’s not going to be “anything goes” either, and medical personnel who don’t want to be part of an abortion won’t be coerced.

All that helps explain why a regulatory move this week by Italy’s Ministry for Health, announced only by way of a tweet, has created such a frisson, because to some it suggests that social compact may be dissolving.

Health Minister Roberto Speranza used Twitter to announce Saturday that RU486, commonly known as the “abortion pill,” has been approved for outpatient use. His decision followed a recommendation in April by the Italian Agency for Pharmacies, a government regulatory body, to issue such approval, as has already occurred in most other EU states.

Ultimately, the concern among Italy’s pro-life movements and politicians is that the RU 486 decision could signal an unraveling of the social compact on abortion that’s held more or less since 1981, leading to pressure from the country’s left-leaning forces for expansion of abortion rights on other fronts.

Politically speaking, what’s interesting about all this is that Pope Francis and the Vatican generally are seen as on good terms with the government of Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, whose ruling coalition is composed of the center-left Democratic Party and the populist leftist Five Star movement.

Francis gave Conte badly needed support at critical moments of the coronavirus crisis, at one stage forcing the Italian bishops to back down when they appeared poised to defy government restrictions on public celebration of the Mass.

Going forward, it will be interesting to see whether Francis opts to cash in some of that political capital by sending signals that he’s prepared to push back if similar efforts crop up. This is a government that might not be especially concerned about “the Vatican,” but they certainly pay attention to the pope.


3. Italy approves outpatient use for abortion pill, By Associated Press, August 9, 2020

Women in Italy can now use the abortion pill on an outpatient basis rather than be hospitalized to terminate a pregnancy.

Italy’s health minister, Roberto Speranza, announced the change in guidelines in a tweet Saturday. He said it was based on scientific evidence and was “an important step forward” in line with Italy’s 1978 law legalizing abortion.


4. Unpacking the “Italy good, America bad” meme on the coronavirus, By John L. Allen Jr., Crux, August 9, 2020, Opinion

Like most media memes, the “Italy success story” is a bit exaggerated. Nonetheless, there’s enough truth to it that it’s worth unpacking.

Let’s start with the exaggerations.

To begin with, whether Italy is truly a success story remains to be seen.

For another thing, Italy probably lucked out at the beginning of its crisis because it was largely concentrated in the wealthy north, as opposed to the chronically underdeveloped and dysfunctional south.

Further, Italy also benefitted from the quirky nature of its parliamentary system, where heads of state can take power as a result of backroom deals without a single person ever having voted for them.

Finally, let’s also note that much of the “Italy good, America bad” drumbeat in the US media right now has a clear anti-Trump edge.

All that said, there’s still a case for celebrating Italy’s accomplishment, and perhaps a lesson in it too.

First, from the beginning Italians used the language of salvare la Patria, “saving the country,” to describe their anti-COVID efforts, even when they were joking about it.

Second, Italians bought into the mobilization in a way a broad swath of Americans never have. Honest to God, I actually witnessed ordinary Italians self-policing orderly lines in front of grocery stores … something that if you’ve ever been to Italy, you know is nothing short of an utter cultural revolution.

Third, there’s the eternal X factor in Italian life, which is the role of the pope.

Yes, there’s a strong anti-clerical streak in Italian life, most Italians don’t go to church anymore for anything beyond weddings, baptisms and funerals, the Italian bishops wield declining influence in national affairs, and on and on.

Still, in moments of national crisis, Italians instinctively turn to the pope, like kids in a family that fights all the time still look to dad when the chips are down.


5. Take-aways from the Vatican’s ‘Thursday Thunder’, By John L. Allen Jr., Crux, August 8, 2020, Opinion

Herewith, a few take-aways on the Vatican’s “Thursday Thunder.”

Council for the Economy

When Pope Francis established the Council for the Economy in 2014, it was meant to be the coordinating body for his reform.

The main headline from this crop of nominations is that six of the seven laity tapped by Francis are women, meaning this is a concrete application of his rhetoric about finding ways to empower women in the Church other than ordination to the priesthood.

One other note is that, taken in tandem with other recent financial appointments, the new lineup for the Council for the Economy represents another chapter in the emergence of what I’ve called Francis’s “Reform 2.0.”

The first wave of reform in 2013 and 2014 was largely an Anglo-German project

Of late, however, the geographic balance of power has shifted to the Mediterranean, with the key roles going to Italians and Spaniards (representing the only two languages in which the pontiff is truly comfortable.)


A guy I met more than 20 years when I first started covering the Vatican once told me that the ideal Vatican response to any question should be netto, secco e non dice niente, meaning “clear, dry and not saying anything” beyond what was absolutely essential.

In all honesty, the Vatican has honored that rule more in the breach in recent years, often issuing extraordinarily prolix explanations of its decisions. A ruling from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith Thursday in response to two questions about the formula for baptism was a clear exception, as it really pivots on just two words: “Negative” and “Affirmative.”

The first question was whether it’s valid to use the formula “we baptize you” rather than the traditional “I” (negative), and the second was whether people baptized using that formula have to be baptized using the proper vocabulary (affirmative).

Eastern Patriarchs

Though the Catholic community on the Arabian Peninsula is tiny, it’s also highly diverse.

For some time, the administrative question has been who’s responsible for those folks – is it the two Apostolic Vicariates on the peninsula, or their Eastern patriarchs back home?

Strictly from an organizational efficiency point of view, it makes a lot more sense for it to be the vicariates.

That’s the basis on which the Vatican assigned jurisdiction to the vicariates in 2003 under St. John Paul II. On Thursday, however, Pope Francis decided to roll back that decision, returning responsibility for pastoral care to the Eastern patriarchs, though in a circumscribed fashion.

First, Francis made clear that the vicars will remain the representatives of the Catholic Church to the political authorities in their country. Second, Francis said he wants the various players involved to promote a “common vision of pastoral action, understanding and collaboration.”

Pope Francis repeatedly has said his ecclesial vision involves unity in diversity and a “healthy decentralization,” and he’s also made clear his ecumenical commitment to the churches of the East. In this case, he clearly was willing to prioritize what leaders of those churches wanted over what systems analysts probably would say.

Those three Thursday moves, as the saying goes, arguably aren’t bad for a day’s work. It remains to be seen whether that completes the Vatican’s vacation checklist, or whether even bigger twists are yet to come — such as, for instance, the long-awaited Vatican report on the McCarrick case, which some rumors suggest could come by the end of the month.


6. Court lifts block on 4 Arkansas abortion restrictions, By Andrew Demillo, Associated Press, August 7, 2020, 2:19 PM

A federal appeals court on Friday lifted a judge’s ruling that has blocked four Arkansas abortion restrictions from taking effect, including a ban on a common second trimester procedure and a fetal remains law that opponents say would effectively require a partner’s consent before a woman could get an abortion.

The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals vacated the 2017 preliminary injunction issued against the restrictions.


7. Post Ridicules Priest For Refusing To Abandon His Flock In A Pandemic, Then Getting Coronavirus, By Christopher Bedford, The Federalist, August 4, 2020, Pg. A6

Capitol Hill’s Monsignor Charles Pope has the coronavirus.

To anyone lucky enough to know the archdiocese’s most charismatic Catholic, that won’t come as a surprise. Not because he has written and preached against Christians cowering in fear of death, as an equally unsurprising Washington Post article will have you believe, but because unlike the vast majority of us, from politics to the pulpit to the pews, Msgr. Pope lives what he preaches, and he does so without fear.

“The pastor of a Catholic church on Capitol Hill who urged people not to ‘cower in fear’ of the novel coronavirus has contracted Covid-19,” The Washington Post’s Rebecca Tan wrote Sunday.


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.
Subscribe to the TCA podcast!
“Conversations with Consequences” is a new audio program from The Catholic Association. We’ll bring you thoughtful dialogue with the leading thinkers of our time on the most consequential issues of our day. Subscribe today or listen online and enjoy our entertaining and informative weekly episodes.