1. A Saint and His Sins, By Elizabeth Bruenig, The New York Times, August 17, 2020, Pg. A23, Opinion

Last week, a few hours after publishing an essay about American Catholics’ reaction to the Black Lives Matter movement, I received a flood of ill tidings via email. My correspondents’ anger was unrelated to the subject of my article, but was instead inflamed by a mention of Junipero Serra, a canonized Franciscan friar who founded Spanish missions throughout California in the 18th century.

Because Father Serra has become a contested property in the culture wars, and thus been declared either flawless or irredeemable for reasons that have more to do with current events than colonial history, I thought the issue they raised was worth addressing.

“Father Serra believed very strongly that corporal punishment was an integral part of the California mission system and the discipline and control of Native peoples,” the historian Steven Hackel of the University of California Riverside told me. “In the matter of correcting the Indians,” Father Serra wrote to the governor of California in 1780, “when it appeared to us that punishment was deserved, they were flogged, or put into the stocks, according to the gravity of their offense.”

But Father Serra believed the clergy, not the secular Spanish authorities, should administer these punishments, in part because he felt the Spanish soldiers were too brutal. Leaving such things to the soldiers and other secular powers had led to “the worst of evils,” he told royal authorities in a long list of demands on behalf of his missions and their residents in 1773. It is implied in his letter that those abuses included sexual assault, which clearly horrified him.

Father Serra would have been among the first to admit he had sinned, having had, according to Dr. Hackel, a routine of frequent self-flagellation. And yet he is still a saint. If conservatives can find some place for the moral complexity of a man like Father Serra, then I hope they can do the same for the racial justice movement that has been associated in some cases with attacks on his image. Catholics should know better than to let imperfections harden their hearts.


2. With Biden, advocates sense momentum for lifting abortion funding ban, By Jessie Hellmann, The Hill, August 17, 2020, 6:00 AM

Abortion rights advocates are pinning their hopes on presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden to help end a longstanding ban on the use of federal funds for abortion — a policy he supported for more than 40 years.

Biden reversed his position by denouncing the so-called Hyde amendment last year, but its future doesn’t just depend on who wins the White House. Democrats will also need to make major gains in the Senate, keep control of the House and gain the support of more moderate Democratic lawmakers on a divisive issue.

Advocates nonetheless feel there has never been more momentum for ending Hyde, which prevents federal programs like Medicaid from paying for abortions, a restriction that disproportionately affects low-income people and women of color.


3. Nuncio supports Catholic archbishop denounced by Zimbabwe official, By Catholic News Agency, August 17, 2020, 4:35 AM

The Pope’s representative in Zimbabwe has expressed solidarity with a Catholic archbishop after he was harshly criticized by a government official.

Archbishop Paolo Rudelli, the Apostolic Nuncio to Zimbabwe, visited Archbishop Robert Ndlovu Aug. 16, the day after the country’s Minister of Information, Monica Mutsvangwa, launched a blistering personal attack on Ndlovu.


4. Zimbabwe’s Catholic bishops accuse government of abuses, By Farai Mutsaka, The Washington Post, August 16, 2020, 9:50 AM

Zimbabwe is embroiled in an economic and political crisis marked by human rights abuses, said the country’s Roman Catholic bishops, who were then criticized by the government as “evil” and trying to promote genocide.

In a pastoral letter read out at all Catholic churches Sunday, the bishops said Zimbabwe is in “a multi-layered crisis of the convergence of economic collapse, deepening poverty, food insecurity, corruption and human rights abuses.”

Scores of government critics and ordinary people have been arrested in recent weeks, others allegedly abducted and tortured and many are in hiding following an anti-government protest thwarted by security agents in July.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government quickly responded with information minister Monica Mutsvangwa accusing the bishops of being “evil.”


5. Democrats tap array of faith leaders to speak at convention, By Elana Schor, Associated Press, August 16, 2020, 1:21 PM

The Episcopal bishop of Washington, D.C., who criticized President Donald Trump after he held a Bible aloft at a photo op at a historic church in her diocese, is among the diverse group of faith leaders selected by Democrats to speak at their presidential nominating convention.

Also set to speak on Thursday are Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of the advocacy group NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice and a longtime Biden ally dating to the push to pass President Barack Obama’s health care plan; the Rev. James Martin, a Jesuit priest and editor at large of the Jesuit magazine America.


6. As the sound of music returns, Italy’s church/state debate goes silent, By John L. Allen Jr., Crux, August 16, 2020, Opinion

For all intents and purposes, as a liturgical matter Italy’s coronavirus pandemic is over as of today. Beginning today, family members and friends are no longer required to observe social distancing when they come to church, and churches are once again able to have choirs at Mass and the assembly can sing.

What’s also apparently over, though no one’s quite said so out loud, is the church/state debate that the now-expired government restrictions created when they were first imposed in March.

In effect, the Italian situation is a classic example of nothing succeeding like success.

Italy went into a nationwide lockdown on March 8, and as part of the quarantine, public Masses were suspended throughout the country. The Italian bishops conference decreed the shutdown, and although technically a conference has no authority under canon law to compel individual bishops to obey its dictates, not a single Italian bishop defied the order.

At the time, the decision stirred considerable debate in Italian Catholic circles, especially among more conservative and tradition-minded figures. Some insisted that the Italian constitution guarantees freedom of religion, so the government had no business telling the Church to suspend Masses.

Further, critics argued, the bishops were making the fatal mistake of capitulating to the idea that the Mass is not an “essential service,” such as grocery stores, pharmacies and even tobacco shops, all of which remained open.

Instead, however, all one hears is a grand silence.

In all likelihood, examining these issues, at least here in Italy, will be delayed by the fact that everyone’s basically satisfied with how things shook out, but sooner or later a day of reckoning probably will come.

Yet for now, the Italian bishops – who once had to be told by Pope Francis to back down, at a moment when they appeared poised to defy the shutdown – can now bask in the glow of perceived success.

That may be the residue of little more than good luck, but for most bishops here, that’s probably enough.


7. Pope Francis calls for justice and dialogue in Belarus, By Courtney Mares, Catholic News Agency, August 16, 2020, 6:30 AM

Pope Francis offered a prayer for Belarus Sunday asking for respect for justice and dialogue following a week of violent clashes over the disputed presidential election.

“I carefully follow the post-electoral situation in this country and appeal for dialogue, the rejection of violence and respect for justice and law. I entrust all Belarusians to the protection of Our Lady, Queen of Peace,” Pope Francis said in his Angelus address Aug. 16.

Protests erupted in Minsk, the capital of Belarus, on Aug. 9 after the government’s electoral officials announced a landslide victory for Alexander Lukashenko, who has ruled the country since 1994.

The European Union’s foreign minister Josep Borrell has said that the elections in Belarus were “neither free nor fair”  and condemned the government’s repression and arrests of protesters.


8. Will Kamala Harris Drive Religious Voters Away From Joe Biden?, By Lauretta Brown, National Catholic Register, August 15, 2020

Ashley McGuire, senior fellow with the Catholic Association, told the Register in a statement that “Kamala Harris has come to be a ringleader of the anti-Catholic bullying that increasingly defines the Democratic Party.”

“It is equally disappointing to see Joe Biden tout his Catholic faith while picking as his running mate someone who has made her anti-Catholic bona fides clear,” she said.


9. Pope urges Nile states to continue talks over disputed dam, By Samy Magdy and Frances D’Emilio, Associated Press, August 15, 2020, 10:31 AM

Pope Francis on Saturday urged Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan to continue talks to resolve their years-long dispute over a massive dam Ethiopia is building on the Blue Nile that has led to sharp regional tensions and fears of military conflict.

Francis, speaking to a crowd gathered at St. Peter’s Square on an official Catholic feast day, said he was closely following negotiations between the three countries over the dam.


 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.