1. The Primitive Pacifism of Pope Francis’ Lecture to Israel, The Catholic Church developed just-war theory, but the pontiff doesn’t seem to understand it., By David B. Rivkin and Peter Berkowitz, The Wall Street Journal, December 14, 2023, Pg. A19, Opinion Pope Francis reportedly warned Israeli President Isaac Herzog in a phone call that it is “forbidden to respond to terror with terror.” Assuming he meant this as a criticism of Israel’s efforts to defend itself against Hamas, one might dismiss it as the ill-informed opinion of a left-leaning politician. But the pope’s error is worth taking seriously, because he speaks with some authority on matters of war and peace. Catholic theology has shaped the Judeo-Christian “just war” theory that midwifed the modern laws of war.  Just-war doctrine, while refined over the centuries, was largely developed within the Christian tradition by St. Augustine of Hippo in the fourth century. Augustine rejected primitive Christian pacifism and argued that war, waged in compliance with proper rules, is a necessary tool of ethical statecraft. Acknowledging the sanctity of human life and expressing concern about the harm inevitably caused by a clash of arms, just war’s principal role is to protect the innocent to the extent possible, a task that pacifism can’t accomplish. Just-war precepts, as incorporated into the traditional laws of war, have two distinct components. The first, jus ad bellum, comprises the rules governing when force may be rightly used. These include just cause, legitimate authority, public declaration, proper intent, proportionality, use of arms as the last resort, and reasonable hope for success.  The second component, jus in bello, encompasses the rules governing how force may be lawfully used, including at whom it may be directed.  Equating unintended and proportional collateral damage with terrorism, as Pope Francis apparently did, goes further. It undermines the right to self-defense, the cornerstone of the laws of war. If the characterization of Israel’s exercise of its right of self-defense as terrorism were to prevail, the laws of war, instead of reflecting the military imperatives of law-abiding powers, would give a decisive advantage to terrorists and rogue states.  The pope’s comments to Mr. Herzog amount to a rejection of just-war theory and an embrace of primitive pacifism. They fail to understand that what happens in Gaza won’t stay in Gaza. If the laws of war were rewritten to preclude law-abiding powers like Israel and the U.S. from defending themselves against lawless combatants like Hamas, Hezbollah and Iran, lawlessness would inevitably prevail. Mr. Rivkin practices appellate and constitutional law in Washington. He served at the Justice Department and the White House Counsel’s Office in the Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations. Mr. Berkowitz is a senior fellow at Stanford’s Hoover Institution. He served as director of the U.S. State Department’s policy planning staff, 2019-21. https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-primitive-pacifism-of-pope-francis-lecture-to-israel-augustine-just-war-fa9c66ba__________________________________________________________ 2. Christian group, ACLU sue Metro over rejected bus ads featuring a praying George Washington, By Mark A. Kellner, The Washington Times, December 14, 2023, Pg. A10 A Texas-based Christian education group has filed a free-speech lawsuit backed by the ACLU over the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority‘s rejection of the group’s ads that feature images of a praying George Washington. WMATA earlier this year rejected the ads from WallBuilders, an Aledo, Texas, organization founded by evangelical author David Barton to communicate “the moral, religious, and constitutional foundation” of the United States.  The ads would have been displayed on Metro buses.  In 2017, the Archdiocese of Washington sued the transportation agency over the rejection of the church’s “Find the Perfect Gift” ads, which invited the public to consider Christmas’ spiritual meaning, consider attending a Mass for the holiday, or donate to a Catholic charity serving the poor. U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson upheld WMATA’s rejection of the advertising. Two years later, however, a three-judge panel of the Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia ruled in favor of a lawsuit filed by the Northeastern Pennsylvania Freethought Society against the County of Lackawanna Transit System over the agency’s refusal to permit advertising for the atheist group on buses.   https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2023/dec/12/aclu-joins-wallbuilders-in-suing-metro-over-reject/__________________________________________________________ 3. A judge may rule on Wyoming’s abortion laws, including the first explicit US ban on abortion pills, By Mead Gruver, Associated Press, December 14, 2023, 5:46 AM A judge in Wyoming will decide as soon as Thursday whether to strike down, affirm or hold a trial over the state’s abortion bans, including its first-in-the-nation explicit prohibition on the use of medication to end pregnancy. Any decision on the bans during or after a pretrial conference before Teton County District Judge Melissa Owens in Jackson likely would be appealed to the Wyoming Supreme Court. Both sides have asked Owens to issue a ruling without holding a bench trial that is scheduled to begin April 15. So far, Owens has shown sympathy for arguments that the bans violate women’s rights under the state constitution. Three times over the past year and a half, the judge has blocked the laws from taking effect while they were disputed in court.  https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/2023/12/14/wyoming-abortion-bans-pills-lawsuit/2e3481d0-9a3e-11ee-82d9-be1b5ea041ab_story.html__________________________________________________________ 4. Pope, once a victim of AI-generated imagery, calls for treaty to regulate artificial intelligence, By Nicole Winfield, Associated Press, December 14, 2023, 6:28 AM Pope Francis on Thursday called for an international treaty to ensure artificial intelligence is developed and used ethically, arguing that the risks of technology lacking human values of compassion, mercy, morality and forgiveness are too great. Francis added his voice to increasing calls for binding, global regulation of AI in his annual message for the World Day of Peace, which the Catholic Church celebrates each Jan. 1. The Vatican released the text of the message on Thursday. For Francis, the appeal is somewhat personal: Earlier this year, an AI-generated image of him wearing a luxury white puffer jacket went viral, showing just how quickly realistic deepfake imagery can spread online. The pope’s message was released just days after European Union negotiators secured provisional approval on the world’s first comprehensive AI rules that are expected to serve as a gold standard for governments considering their own regulation.  https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2023/12/14/vatican-pope-ai-artificial-intelligence/977b6108-9a6c-11ee-82d9-be1b5ea041ab_story.html __________________________________________________________ 5. The Supreme Court will rule on limits on a commonly used abortion medication, By Mark Sherman, Associated Press, December 13, 2023, 9:39 AM The Supreme Court agreed on Wednesday to take up a dispute over a medication used in the most common method of abortion in the United States, its first abortion case since it overturned Roe v. Wade last year. The justices will hear appeals from the Biden administration and the maker of the drug mifepristone asking the high court to reverse an appellate ruling that would cut off access to the drug through the mail and impose other restrictions, even in states where abortion remains legal. The restrictions include shortening from the current 10 weeks to seven weeks the time during which mifepristone can be used in pregnancy. The nine justices rejected a separate appeal from abortion opponents who challenged the Food and Drug Administration’s initial approval of mifepristone as safe and effective in 2000.  https://apnews.com/article/supreme-court-abortion-medication-drug-mifepristone-f763b93ef632e1767fd696caec686c21__________________________________________________________ 6. U.S. bishops urge more federal security funds for houses of worship, nonprofits, By Tyler Arnold, Catholic News Agency, December 13, 2023, 1:45 PM The U.S. bishops are asking Congress to provide at least $200 million in federal funds for grants that improve security for houses of worship and other nonprofit organizations. In a letter to congressional leaders, written last month and released to the public this week, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) urged lawmakers to include additional funding for the Nonprofit Security Grant Program (NSGP) in a package that provides security assistance to Israel.  The federal government says that the NSGP “provides funding support for target hardening and other physical security enhancements and activities to nonprofit organizations that are at high risk of terrorist attack.” New York archbishop Cardinal Timothy Dolan, chair of the USCCB’s Committee for Religious Liberty, said in the letter that the grants “enable vulnerable communities to gather for worship, prayer, and service without fear of being attacked.”  https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/256263/us-bishops-urge-more-federal-security-funds-for-houses-of-worship-nonprofits __________________________________________________________ 7. Have Pope Francis’ financial reforms gone too far to fail?, By Ed. Condon, The Pillar, December 13, 2023, 7:01 AM The pope used a Monday audience with Vatican financial auditors to call for “merciful discretion” as they investigate and hold to account bad actors in the curia.  The remark triggered considerable criticism online from those who interpreted the pope as calling for a kind of preferential option for handling corruption informally, whenever possible.  Others close to the financial crimes trial, due to return a verdict on Saturday, hace wondered if Francis was sending a thinly veiled message to the judges as they consider the decades in prison and half a billion euros in damages being sought by Francis’ own prosecutors.   While Francis might prefer to handle bad, even criminal, behavior with “discretion” instead of “absolute transparency,” he is hardly the first pope to feel that way. But unlike his recent predecessors, Francis can claim some credit for making  “absolute transparency” something Catholics have come to demand, if not yet expect, when scandals do erupt.  The culture of rigorous financial accountability which Francis has sought to create on paper, through successive reforms to both the laws of Vatican City and the norms governing curial departments, have often struggled to make it off the page and into the real world, though.  And, at times, the biggest obstacle to the pope’s reforming agenda has appeared to be Francis himself.   From the earliest years of his pontificate, Francis has appeared to set a pattern for himself of acting boldly, but later seeming to shrink from backing the full force of his own reforms. At first, Francis signaled a no-holds-barred approach to cleaning up money matters, creating two new departments, the Secretariat for the Economy and the Office of the Auditor General, giving them an unlimited mandate to investigate, and in Cardinal George Pell and Libero Milone, naming two Vatican outsiders to cut through an obtuse and impenetrable curial culture. But within two years Francis sided against his own reformers and with the then Archbishop Becciu, retroactively backing the sostituto’s moves to cancel a Vatican-wide audit and have Milone dismissed for “spying” on the private financial affairs of senior officials, including Becciu. Coincidentally, Milone and Pell both subsequently confirmed that their first major run-in with Becciu was over their attempts to audit the Secretariat of State’s investment portfolio, and to flag illicit accounting maneuvers used to obscure hundreds of millions of borrowed euros, sunk into what would become the London property deal. With Pell’s own departure back to Australia to defend himself against accusations of abuse, the tide appeared to go out on Francis’ promised reforming agenda.  The pope made a withering assessment of Milone’s protests at his treatment by Becciu in the papal Christmas address to the curia in 2017, and there followed a period of years in which it looked like financial reform would become a footnote of failed promise for Francis’ pontificate, as it had for so many others, rather a legacy achievement.  The Secretariat for the Economy and Office of the Auditor General were left with interim leaders of far lesser and lower profiles than their predecessors; both departments shorn of the moral authority of papal backing necessary to face down larger departments. Francis promoted Becciu to cardinal and even created a makework position within the Vatican paymaster and sovereign wealth manager as a refuge for Gustavo Oscar Zanchetta, an Argentine bishop and friend accused of sexual abuse. But even with much of the air let out of the reforming push, the initial momentum couldn’t be halted entirely.   Indeed, with the pope’s financial legislation now well-established, and at least some key Vatican figures clearly willing to see them applied, and not necessarily adverse to the publicity it generates, Francis’ reforms may now actually have a life of their own. The extent to which this is true will soon be tested in the aftermath of the current trial, though. If the judges return sweeping acquittals on the most serious charges for the most high profile defendants, many will question the prosecutors’ methods and competence, and wonder what all the public scandal was for, anyway. Others will be left wondering if, even with all of the legal tools Francis has created, it is actually ever possible to prosecute successfully a powerful Vatican cardinal. But should the judges decide to convict, and to impose sentences in line with the gravity of their findings, it could embolden Vatican financial watchdogs like never before, and serve as a sober warning to dicastery heads that now, maybe, finally, no one is above the law. https://www.pillarcatholic.com/p/have-pope-francis-financial-reforms __________________________________________________________

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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