1. The Faith and Witness of Jimmy Lai, By William McGurn, The Wall Street Journal, December 19, 2023, Pg. A13, Opinion This witness includes his stand for free speech, as he watched an alleged world finance center seize his publication, Apple Daily, without a court order or judgment. It includes his role as a champion for the economic liberty that turned Hong Kong into the most prosperous Chinese society the world has known. And it includes his argument that Hong Kong’s people are as worthy of democracy as any. But there’s one more witness that animates everything he does: his Christian faith. Jimmy wasn’t jailed because his faith was against the law. But he freely accepted handcuffs and prison bars because of his faith. Jimmy wasn’t always a believer. But in 1997, a week after Hong Kong was handed back to China, he was received into the Catholic Church. He was baptized by his good friend Cardinal Joseph Zen, who has himself been arrested by the government—and was in court Monday to show support. I am Jimmy’s godfather. Since Jimmy’s arrest, Cardinal Zen has visited him as often as he can. It isn’t well known, but several of those jailed in Hong Kong for pro-democracy activities have been baptized. These days Jimmy spends much of his time cultivating his new vocation as a Christian artist. He’s pretty good, too, even limited to drawing in pencil on regular, lined paper. Over time the authorities came to see this as a threat and so no longer allow him to share his prison artwork with visitors and correspondents. Most of all, Jimmy is blessed to have a wife, Teresa, every bit as strong as he is. Teresa told Jimmy when he was arrested that she knew that moment might come the day she married him. Her message: Jimmy, I am your wife, and I will walk this journey with you every step of the way. But you must pick up your cross and embrace it. The amazing thing is that this proud man has done just that.  Yet through all this Jimmy radiates a peace that, for all his riches, he never had before. He has written that Stanley Prison isn’t so bad because the British built it and the Chinese haven’t got around to screwing it up yet. And he has one message for those who have turned on him: Forgiveness. On the day of Jimmy’s baptism more than 25 years ago, I confess I looked at him and wondered how much he really believed. There were so many social reasons for him to convert. Many of his friends were Catholic. Even as a nonbeliever, he admired religions for the good they contributed to society. And his wife, a cradle Catholic, was thrilled by his conversion. Today I am ashamed of those doubts. With this trial Jimmy will finally get his opportunity to speak. He would leave prison in a heartbeat and go home to his loving wife and children if he could. But not at the cost of truth. The Good Book tells us that love endures all things. Which creates a dilemma for China and Hong Kong with this trial: The more suffering they inflict, the more powerful Jimmy Lai’s witness grows. https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-faith-and-witness-of-jimmy-lai-imprisonment-hong-kong-catholic-persecution-3a4aebfa__________________________________________________________ 2. Vice President Harris announces nationwide events focused on abortion, By Chris Megerian, Associated Press, December 19, 2023, 5:02 AM Vice President Kamala Harris is redoubling her focus on abortion rights as the election year begins, planning a nationwide series of events as Democrats try to rally voters to give President Joe Biden a second term and regain full control of Congress. Her first event is scheduled for Wisconsin on Jan. 22, which would have been the 51st anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the landmark Supreme Court case that legalized abortion nationwide. The court overturned the decision in 2022 in the case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. “I will continue to fight for our fundamental freedoms while bringing together those throughout America who agree that every woman should have the right to make decisions about her own body — not the government,” Harris said in a statement.  https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2023/12/19/kamala-harris-abortion-election-2024/bcd5a4da-9e55-11ee-9e0f-972979a6c22b_story.html__________________________________________________________ 3. The rise of anti-religious bigotry, Some protesters are waving the banner of satanism, By Tommy Valentine, The Washington Times, December 19, 2023, Opinion Anti-religious bigotry is on the rise in America. This is not a new phenomenon. But while previous surges of anti-religious bigotry were rooted in sectarianism — one religious group against another — the scourge we are witnessing today is driven by people who claim not to profess any religion themselves. Over the summer, the Los Angeles Dodgers — one of the most beloved and until recently family-friendly corporations in America — gave an award to an anti-Catholic hate group, the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence.  Perhaps most troubling is that many anti-religious bigots who mock people of faith are increasingly choosing to fly the banner of satanism.  Across the country, the Satanic Temple organization, which boasts 700,000 members, is sponsoring after-school Satan clubs as an alternative to religion-based student groups.  Against this backdrop, acts of real violence against Catholic churches have spiked dramatically. CatholicVote has documented nearly 400 attacks against Catholic churches in the United States since the summer of 2020, including more than 200 since the leak of the Dobbs decision in May 2022 and nearly 100 so far in 2023.  The anti-religionists like the Satanic Temple and the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence may dismiss objections to their exploits by claiming to be engaging in parody and satire against organized religion. But Christians of all races and socioeconomic backgrounds find these tactics deeply hurtful at a time when their churches are already under violent attack. If their anti-religious crusades continue unchecked, there will be darker days ahead, and we will lose the first freedom upon which our country was founded, as well as the blessings that it has brought. Tommy Valentine is director of the Catholic Accountability Project at CatholicVote. https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2023/dec/18/rise-of-anti-religious-bigotry/ __________________________________________________________ 4. Vatican move on same-sex ‘blessings’ draws praise, criticism in U.S. flock, Critic says pope-endorsed document ‘creates scandal and confusion’, By Mark A. Kellner, The Washington Times, December 19, 2023 Pope Francis on Monday approved letting priests bless same-sex couples, sparking criticism from conservative Catholics and praise from the LGBTQ community. Such blessings would not rise to the level of church-sanctioned same-sex marriages, the Vatican cautioned, but would offer gay Catholics the opportunity to seek God’s mercy without being subjected to “an exhaustive moral analysis.”  The Vatican and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops were quick to point out that the blessings approved Monday were pastoral and not liturgical or sacramental. Chieko Noguchi, the conference’s executive director of public affairs, said a pastoral blessing “may be given to persons who desire God’s loving grace in their lives.” “The church’s teaching on marriage has not changed,” she said, “and this declaration affirms that, while also making an effort to accompany people through the imparting of pastoral blessings because each of us needs God’s healing love and mercy in our lives.” Individual bishops and cardinals were reluctant to speak publicly in the immediate aftermath of the announcement.  Eric Sammons, editor of Crisis Magazine, which says it is an online publication for “faithful Catholic laity,” decried the move as “creating scandal and confusion.” Via email, he said, “It tries to create an artificial divide between what Catholics believe and how they live, pretending that blessing same-sex couples will remain distinct in the minds of the ordinary Catholics from sacramental marriages. The practical effect is that more and more Catholics will continue to lose faith in the Church, as its leaders seem desperate to find acceptance from the world instead of from the Lord.” https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2023/dec/18/vatican-move-same-sex-blessings-draws-praise-criti/ __________________________________________________________ 5. Cardinal Becciu retains luxury Vatican apartment after conviction, By The Pillar, December 19, 2023, 9:48 AM Cardinal Angelo Becciu retains the use of a palatial grace and favor apartment in Vatican City, despite being convicted of numerous financial crimes. Becciu has been resident for years in an apartment on the top floor of the Palazzo del Santo Uffizio, the extraterritorial building adjacent to St. Peter’s square which also houses the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith.  Sources close to the Vatican City state’s governorate have told The Pillar that, despite changes in Vatican policy issued by Pope Francis earlier this year, Cardinal Becciu is not paying market rates for the property but instead only a nominal monthly rent, in line with privileges customarily extended to senior curial officials. “It is ironic, because on the one hand no cardinal could or should be able to afford market rates on such a palace,” one source close to the Palazzo del Santo Uffizio said, “but on the other, if anyone has the money, it’s probably Cardinal Becciu.” The same source confirmed to The Pillar that the cardinal’s residence, which includes accommodation for religious sisters who act as domestic help to the cardinal, and a restaurant grade kitchen, underwent an extensive renovation in 2018-19, shortly after Becciu was named a cardinal by Pope Francis and just as the investigation into his financial crimes got underway. In February, Pope Francis issued a rescript, a formal change in law, stating that resident clerics would now have to pay normal market rates for accommodation in Vatican-owned properties and rent of apartments in Vatican buildings.  The American Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke, a senior jurist and judge on the Vatican’s supreme canonical court was believed to be the first cardinal to have the policy applied to him when, earlier this month, he was informed by letter that he must soon begin paying market rate rent on his Vatican apartment, or vacate the residence in early 2024. The Pillar has confirmed that on Dec. 1, Burke received a letter from the Apostolic See dated Nov. 24, which explained that he is expected to begin paying market rate rents for his Vatican apartment, effective Dec. 1, or — if Burke is unable to do so — to surrender the apartment by Feb. 29, 2024.   Italy’s La Nuova Bussola Quotidiana website reported Nov. 27 that the pope had “supposedly said” at the Nov. 20 meeting that the 75-year-old cardinal was “my enemy” and was taking away his apartment and salary as a retired cardinal. Those reports were disputed in other outlets, but it does appear that Pope Francis made some announcement of his decision to apply the higher rent policy to Burke with the intention of evicting the cardinal. Burke was a member of a group of cardinals who submitted dubia, formal questions, expressing doubts about the interpretation of Pope Francis’ exhortation Amoris Laetitia, and of another group who presented dubia to the pope this summer ahead of the synod on synodality’s first session. While widely perceived as a theological skeptic of many of Francis’ signature documents, Burke has not, however, been convicted of multiple crimes in Vatican City, nor found guilty of embezzling Church funds or abusing his Vatican offices. https://www.pillarcatholic.com/p/cardinal-becciu-retains-luxury-vatican__________________________________________________________ 6. Attorneys for Kentucky woman seeking abortion withdraw lawsuit, By Dylan Lovan, Associated Press, December 18, 2023, 2:50 PM Attorneys for a Kentucky woman who sued demanding the right to an abortion withdrew the lawsuit after the woman learned her embryo no longer has cardiac activity. In a court filing Sunday, the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky told a judge the attorneys will “voluntarily dismiss” the lawsuit that was filed Dec. 8. Lawyers for the woman pointed to a Kentucky Supreme Court decision that said abortion providers cannot sue on behalf of their patients, limiting the legal actions to individuals seeking an abortion. The lawsuit had sought class-action status. “The court’s decision has forced Kentuckians seeking abortion to bring a lawsuit while in the middle of seeking time-sensitive health care, a daunting feat, and one that should not be necessary to reclaim the fundamental right to control their own bodies,” the ACLU of Kentucky said in a release Monday. The attorneys said they would continue to look for possible plaintiffs.  https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/2023/12/18/abortion-kentucky-jane-doe-court/f41358cc-9dbd-11ee-9e0f-972979a6c22b_story.html__________________________________________________________ 7. Deadline set for claims against Baltimore Archdiocese for sexual abuse, Survivors have until May 31 to file a claim in the archdiocese’s bankruptcy case. After that, civil sexual abuse claims against it will be permanently barred., By Michelle Boorstein, The Washington Post, December 18, 2023, 12:57 PM A federal bankruptcy judge started the clock on Monday for sexual abuse survivors seeking damages from the Catholic Archdiocese of Baltimore, setting a date of May 31, 2024, for claims to be filed. The deadline is a compromise between the Feb. 26 date the archdiocese requested and the June 1 date proposed by the survivors, who are represented by a “creditors committee” — a group of seven survivors selected to represent what are expected to be hundreds of others with abuse claims. The archdiocese includes about 480,000 Catholics in Baltimore and Allegany, Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Carroll, Frederick, Garrett, Harford, Howard and Washington counties. The archdiocese is now mandated by the court to widely advertise the deadline, after which civil sexual abuse claims against it will be permanently barred.  https://www.washingtonpost.com/religion/2023/12/18/batlimore-catholic-clergy-sexual-abuse-bankruptcy-claims/__________________________________________________________ 8. New York bill would bar Chick-fil-A from major highway over Sunday closures, By Joe Bukuras, Catholic News Agency, December 18, 2023, 3:02 PM A proposed bill in New York state would result in Chick-fil-A being forced to leave a major highway system unless it opened on Sundays, a rule that would run afoul of the chain’s decades-old policy of closing on the Christian Sabbath. The bill, listed on the state Legislature’s website last week, dictates that “any contracts entered into by the New York State Thruway Authority for the operation of food services at public transportation facilities” shall require that those services “be provided every day of the week.” The Thruway is a hundreds-of-miles-long network of state highways that run from New York City to the Pennsylvania border. It has existed in New York since the mid-1950s.  The measure comes a few years after three state legislators sent a letter to the executive director of the state Thruway Authority asking him to “reexamine” the authority’s approval of Chick-fil-A to open locations along the highway system, citing the chain leadership’s public stance against same-sex marriage. CNA reached out to the bill’s chief sponsor, state Assemblyman Tony Simone, for comment. A spokeswoman for Simone pointed CNA to the memo for the bill. Chick-fil-A did not respond to a request for comment. “Chick-fil-A has had a terrible record on LGBT rights. I’m not going to not say that clearly,” Simone told the New York Post last week. Simone identifies as gay.  “To serve New Yorkers and travelers, things should be open seven days a week, including Chick-fil-A, and if they can’t they shouldn’t be in our rest stops,” Simone said. “There should be options for people to eat and drink and not just one spot.”   https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/256309/new-york-bill-would-bar-chick-fil-a-from-major-highway-over-sunday-closures__________________________________________________________ 9. Congressional commission urges sanctions if Hong Kong won’t release Jimmy Lai, By Tyler Arnold, Catholic News Agency, December 18, 2023, 5:00 PM A congressional commission is urging the United States government to sanction Hong Kong prosecutors and judges if they fail to release Catholic pro-democracy activist and journalist Jimmy Lai, who is on trial for allegedly violating a controversial Chinese national security law. The 76-year-old activist, a vocal critic of the Chinese Communist Party and an advocate for democracy and greater freedom in Hong Kong, has garnered support from American and European officials since his arrest on Aug. 10, 2020.  Lai has been imprisoned for three years in a maximum security prison, charged with a variety of crimes, including collusion with foreign forces under the 2020 national security law. Chinese officials claimed that the law bolstered national security protections, but critics argue that it gives officials broad authority to label political opponents as national security threats.   https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/256312/congressional-commission-urges-sanctions-if-hong-kong-won-t-release-imprisoned-catholic-journalist __________________________________________________________ 10. St. Januarius’ blood miraculously liquifies again in Naples, By Eduardo Berdejo, Catholic News Agency, December 18, 2023, 6:40 PM The Archdiocese of Naples, Italy, announced that the miracle of the liquefaction of the blood of St. Januarius was repeated Saturday at the end of a Mass honoring him as the patron saint of the city. The Italian archdiocese reported on Facebook that at 10:35 a.m. on Dec. 16 “the announcement of the liquefaction of the blood of St. Januarius was made” at the end of the Eucharist celebrated in the Royal Chapel of the Treasure of St. Januarius in the Naples cathedral. The Mass was celebrated by Monsignor Vincenzo De Gregorio, “on the occasion of the feast of the patronage of St. Januarius, which is traditionally accompanied by the hope of the prodigious liquefaction of the blood of the patron saint,” the archdiocese said on its website. The miracle of liquefaction traditionally occurs three times a year: in commemoration of the transfer of his remains to Naples (the Saturday before the first Sunday in May), on his liturgical feast (Sept. 19), and on the anniversary of the eruption of nearby Mount Vesuvius in 1631 when his intercession was invoked and the city was spared from the effects of the eruption (Dec. 16).  https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/256313/st-januarius-blood-miraculously-liquifies-again-in-naples __________________________________________________________

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.