1. He Might Have Been Pope. Instead, He May Go to Prison, Cardinal Giovanni Angelo Becciu was a rising star under Pope Francis—until corruption charges left him battling for exoneration and his freedom, By Francis X. Rocca, The Wall Street Journal, December 12, 2023, 12:01 AM Cardinal Giovanni Angelo Becciu walked the short distance from his apartment in Vatican City to the residence of Pope Francis, expecting to discuss his work overseeing the canonization of saints.  The Italian cardinal was a star, even mentioned as a potential future pope. Twenty minutes later, he emerged from the 2020 meeting with a very different status—that of an accused criminal. Vatican magistrates alleged Becciu had embezzled more than $100,000 through a nonprofit group run by his brother. Francis told Becciu to resign his Vatican post.  Since the summer of 2021, the 75-year-old Becciu has been on trial for embezzlement, abuse of office and witness tampering. He is the first cardinal to be tried in Vatican City’s criminal court, and prosecutors are seeking a sentence of more than seven years in prison. Becciu has denied any wrongdoing.  Nine others, including former Vatican officials and outsiders, face charges in the trial, which centers on losses from a failed London property investment. The charges also concern the alleged theft of money intended to free a kidnapped nun but purportedly spent instead on resort vacations and luxury goods from Prada and Louis Vuitton. Verdicts are expected this week in the case, which has aired accusations of Vatican vendettas, as well as Becciu’s secretly recorded conversation with the pope.  https://www.wsj.com/world/europe/cardinal-vatican-embezzlement-pope-francis-d66b1c83 __________________________________________________________ 2. Cheer, Cheer for Old Notre-Dame Cathedral, The spire rises—raising anew questions about French secularism., By William McGurn, The Wall Street Journal, December 12, 2023, Pg. A15, Opinion Even covered in scaffolding, Notre-Dame awes. Since the devastating fire on April 15, 2019, the cathedral has sat on its isle in the Seine, wounded and brooding. But also triumphant: At long last Parisians can make out the spire behind the scaffolding. Its precipitous fall was arguably the most heartbreaking image from the fire. So although the official reopening is a year off, this milestone comes as an early Christmas gift. In a nation where rigid secularism—laïcité—has been a religion itself for more than a century, even those with no faith speak of Notre-Dame as the soul of the nation. But navigating laïcité is not easy. During his visit to the cathedral on Friday, President Emmanuel Macron was asked to defend himself for having had the chief rabbi of France to the Élysée Palace the night before, where he lit a menorah to mark the start of Hanukkah. Mr. Macron was unapologetic. “Laïcité is not about erasing religions,” he explained. Or is it? In France religion is confined, by law, to private expression. Laïcité may be one of the few policies popular across the political spectrum, driven today in good part by France’s difficulties with its Muslim population. The received wisdom is that the French must respond to the threat of radical Islam by doubling down on their highly secularized selves. What no one asks is whether the uncompromising way the French define a secular state might account for some of their troubles. Mr. Macron himself has raised some of these questions and embodies some of the contradictions. Though the French president constantly affirms his commitment to laïcité, he also appears to recognize that in its present form it is too unyielding and brittle.  “I am convinced,” he said, “that the Catholic lifeblood should still contribute to bringing our country to life and should continue to do so.” In laïcité France, that’s about as close as you can get to secular blasphemy. He doesn’t appear to have realized it, but Mr. Macron’s words echo those of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, later Pope Benedict XVI. In 1992 Ratzinger was in Paris to be inducted into the Academy of Moral and Political Science. He expressed his admiration for both Alexis de Tocqueville and the Protestant-inspired secular order in America. In that order, he noted, religion was seen as liberty’s ally—not, as in Europe, a foe. As pope he would go on to make the case for a “healthy secularism.” The rebuilding of Notre-Dame is resurrecting these arguments along with the cathedral. For now laïcité reigns. But after nearly nine centuries, it seems safe to say Notre-Dame will outlast the controversies of today. It has survived worse.  https://www.wsj.com/articles/cheer-cheer-for-old-notre-dame-laicite-secularism-radical-islam-france-catholicism-76da975f__________________________________________________________ 3. Supreme Court declines to hear challenge to ‘conversion therapy’ ban, By Ann E. Marimow, The Washington Post, December 11, 2023, 11:51 AM The Supreme Court on Monday refused to take up a challenge to a state law in Washington designed to protect LGBTQ+ youths from “conversion therapy,” a decision that drew dissent from three conservative justices. More than 20 states and the District of Columbia restrict mental health counseling that attempts to change a young person’s gender identity or sexual orientation. A Christian marriage and family counselor who helps clients with gender identity told the court that the Washington law, which limits the practice of “conversion therapy,” censors his conversations with clients in violation of the First Amendment. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit upheld the law, which it said prohibits certain professional conduct, not speech. As is customary, the Supreme Court majority did not explain its decision Monday to leave the 9th Circuit ruling in place. Three justices — Clarence Thomas, Samuel A. Alito Jr. and Brett M. Kavanaugh — said they would have taken the case.  https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2023/12/11/supreme-court-conversion-therapy-washington/__________________________________________________________ 4. Pope Francis expresses concern about Italy’s low birth rate, By Almudena Martínez-Bordiú, Catholic News Agency, December 11, 2023, 4:50 PM Pope Francis on Monday received the prefects of the Italian Republic in the Clementine Hall of the Apostolic Palace and expressed his concern about the low birth rate in the country, lamenting that many times “dogs take the place of children.” The pope reminded that the task of these government authorities is to act as intermediaries “between the state and the territory, constantly linking the whole with the parts, the center with the peripheries, the common good with care for people.” The pontiff highlighted three challenges that the prefects face: public order, critical environmental issues, and taking care of the migrants flowing in. Regarding public order, the pontiff stressed that it’s a priority, where “respect for the law with care for humanity” must be combined.  https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/256242/pope-francis-expresses-concern-about-italy-s-low-birth-rate__________________________________________________________ 5. Treat Vatican corruption with ‘merciful discretion,’ Pope Francis tells auditors, By The Pillar, December 11, 2023, 2:38 PM Pope Francis met on Monday with the staff of the Office of the Auditor General, the Vatican department charged with ensuring financial compliance across the Roman curia. The pope praised the dedication of the department’s staff, but — amid several financial scandals unfolding in the Vatican — urged officials to balance the need for “absolute transparency in every action” with “merciful discretion” when dealing with cases of corruption.  Francis’ call for Vatican auditors to handle instances of curial corruption privately, and presumably outside the Vatican’s legal system, to avoid scandal also comes amid a public dispute between the Holy See and the first person to hold the office of auditor general, Libero Milone. Milone, a career auditor and accountant with a successful track record working across Europe and in the United States, was appointed to the newly created role in the early years of Pope Francis’ pontificate before he was forced from office in 2017. Pope Francis appointed him in 2015 and he worked closely with Cardinal George Pell, who was named the first prefect for the Secretariat for the Economy by the pope, until 2017. In that year, Pell was forced to take a leave of absence from his role to successfully defend himself against abuse accusations in his native Australia, while Milone was forced from his position that same year, along with his deputy, Ferruccio Panicco. Both auditors claim they were ousted because they had been too successful in uncovering financial corruption at the highest levels of the Vatican.  https://www.pillarcatholic.com/p/treat-vatican-corruption-with-merciful__________________________________________________________

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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