TCA Podcast, – “Conversations with Consequences,” Episode 140 – Sisters of Life on Helping Women & Father Landry on the Light of Christ’s Birth! As we celebrate Christmas this weekend, we revisit with Sister Mary Grace of Sisters of Life exploring the invaluable work of these beautiful women doing so much to help mothers and babies in need–and how we can help support their work. TCA colleague and co-host Maureen Ferguson also joins as we look at ways to protect our children from the vicious ills of social media in the new year. Father Roger Landry also offers an inspiring homily for the Nativity of our Lord. Listen every Saturday at 7amET/5pm ET on EWTN radio! 1. Plans move forward for 2022 pope, Russian patriarch meeting, By Nicole Winfield and Vladimir Isachenkov, Associated Press, December 22, 2021, 5:00 AM Plans are progressing for a possible meeting next year between Pope Francis and the leader of the Russian Orthodox Church following their historic encounter in Havana in 2016, a top Russian Orthodox official said Wednesday. Metropolitan Hilarion, foreign relations chief of the Russian Orthodox Church, met for about an hour with Francis on Wednesday morning at the Vatican. “We had a chance to discuss specific dates and venues today, but they are yet to be specified and agreed so we can’t announce the date and place yet,” Hilarion was quoted as saying by the Russian state RIA-Novosti news agency. He said the hope was that the meeting would take place in 2022. 2. Covid Variant Complicates Church Plans, By Ian Lovett, The Wall Street Journal, December 22, 2021, Pg. A3 The nationwide Omicron surge that is coinciding with Christmas is posing a dilemma for churches in what is typically one of their busiest periods of the year. Nearly two years into the pandemic, many that were closed last year are keeping their doors open this time—in some cases with precautions such as masks, in other cases without.  Most Catholic dioceses—which early in the pandemic suspended the obligation to attend Mass—have ended that dispensation and are holding their usual advent services in person. ___________________________________________________________ 3. Religion Apps Attract Venture Investment, By Isaac Taylor, The Wall Street Journal, December 22, 2021, Pg. B4 Religion apps are benefiting from a sharp rise in venture-capital funding as more people turn to them for a sense of community, particularly during the Covid-19 pandemic, startup founders and investors say. Faith-based, for-profit apps attracted $175.3 million in venture funding this year through mid-December, up from $48.5 million in 2020 and $6.1 million in 2016, according to PitchBook Data Inc.  Engagement for many Christian apps falls on Sunday, suggesting that people use the apps in addition to in-person fellowship, not as a replacement. 4. A Seafaring Nun Navigates the Male World of the Vatican, Sister Nathalie Becquart is the most prominent of several women appointed to high-level Vatican posts by Pope Francis, By Francis X. Rocca, The Wall Street Journal, December 22, 2021, 5:30 AM Sister Nathalie Becquart is fond of nautical metaphors. She learned to sail as a small child during summer vacations with her family on the coast of Brittany in northwestern France and says becoming a skipper taught her about leadership. The 52-year-old French woman says she is now drawing on those skills, after Pope Francis appointed her as the first woman to serve as an undersecretary of the Synod of Bishops earlier this year. The advisory body meets periodically in Rome to help the pope navigate topics of broad interest to the church.  Sister Becquart’s appointment made her the first woman eligible to vote alongside bishops at a synod assembly, a change that caused unease for some at the Vatican. She is now the most visible of several women appointed by Pope Francis to Vatican leadership positions that were previously held only by men, gradually recalibrating the leadership of the institution. The pope pledged early in his reign “to create still broader opportunities for a more incisive female presence in the church,” including “the possible role of women in decision-making in different areas of the church’s life.” The policy is part of the pope’s modernizing agenda in the spirit of the Second Vatican Council (1962-65), which called for a more active role for laypeople and their talents in the church.  While hailing the greater role for women in the current pontificate and saying she hopes for more, Sister Becquart says the most important thing about the growing presence of women is that they aren’t clerics. She notes the pope’s appointment in 2018 of a layman, Italian journalist Paolo Ruffini, as head of the Vatican communications office as another instance of a wider trend. “What Pope Francis is doing here at the Vatican…is trying to disconnect the leadership role from ordination,” she said. This a significant change in how the church has traditionally been governed, however, and it will take time to steer it on this new course. “The Vatican is like a big cargo ship, it’s not just a small sailing boat,” said Sister Becquart. “It doesn’t move quickly, you have to be patient.” 5. These Mexican Cardinals Are in Trouble for Telling Catholics to Pray — Let’s Support Them, No government has the right to tell religious leaders they cannot encourage people to pray., By Jennifer Roback Morse and Father Mark Hodges, National Catholic Register, December 22, 2021, Opinion Two Mexican cardinals, a bishop and three priests were found guilty of violating the Mexican constitution for urging Catholics to pray for guidance before voting. The prelates also warned that the ruling socialist party was a threat to life and the family and was trying to turn the nation into Venezuela. The government’s ruling violates the widely accepted right to freedom of speech, especially political speech that criticizes the government. More importantly, these Catholic clergy, including Cardinal Carlos Aguiar Retes, the archbishop of Mexico City, and Cardinal Juan Sandoval Íñiguez, the former archbishop of Guadalajara, are on the right side of the issues they raise. Their arguments deserve a respectful hearing. Those who disagree should make counterarguments. Bringing legal action instead of making that case does nothing to strengthen public confidence in the merits of the policies the prelates are criticizing. Mexico’s Electoral Tribunal handed down its decision on Nov. 18 in response to a lawsuit filed by Mexico’s ruling socialist party, the Movement for Social Regeneration (MORENA). The statements the government found objectionable did not mention a political party or politician by name. In addition to Cardinals Aguiar and Sandoval, Bishop Pedro Pablo Elizondo Cárdenas of Cancún-Chetumal and Fathers Ángel Espinosa de los Monteros Gómez Haro and Ángel Flores Ramos were also convicted. 6. Prosecution of ex-Cardinal McCarrick takes next step in Massachusetts, By John Lavenburg, Crux, December 22, 2021 A Dec. 21 motion for transcript, audio and video recordings of depositions related to the criminal charges against ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick was an important step for the prosecution, according to one of his alleged victims present in the courtroom. The motion was a part of a brief second pre-trial hearing in the case at Dedham District Court in Massachusetts. In addition to the motion, the case was continued to March 3 for a status update. 7. Despite setbacks, Vatican editorial defends trial procedures, By Junno Arocho Esteves, Catholic News Service, December 21, 2021 Six months after the Vatican announced criminal charges in connection with a London property deal that cost millions, the Vatican City State court is still dealing with preliminary, procedural arguments. But in an editorial for Vatican News Dec. 20, Andrea Tornielli, an official at the Dicastery for Communication, argued that was to be expected due to complications arising from the Vatican’s penal code, which is older than and different from Italy’s. “This has created objective problems for all parties to the proceedings, who are asked to apply that code to factual situations that the legislator of a century ago could certainly not foresee,” he wrote. The Vatican court originally had brought to trial 10 individuals, including Cardinal Angelo Becciu, former prefect of the Congregation for Saints’ Causes, and four companies on charges involving financial malfeasance and corruption in relation to a multimillion-dollar property deal in London. But in October, the court ordered the prosecution to redo its investigations of four of the defendants and the four companies. 8. Paid Abortion Leave For City Employees Poses New Questions, In Boston, Pittsburgh and Portland, Oregon, pregnancy loss ‘bereavement’ policies have been extended to include elective abortions, By Matthew McDonald, National Catholic Register, December 21, 2021 Three U.S. cities that offer paid leave to city employees after the birth of a child have recently extended that benefit to abortion. In Boston, a city employee who has an abortion can now get up to 12 weeks of paid leave, thanks to a policy approved earlier this fall. In Portland, Oregon and Pittsburgh, the benefit is three days. The new approach has led to a disagreement among supporters of legal abortion. Boston City Councilor Lydia Edwards, who proposed the policy change, said she has heard from some who worry that new approach suggests that there might be something wrong or traumatic about abortion.  Some pro-lifers see a silver lining in the new policies — an acknowledgment that abortion causes mental anguish. Tobias, who heads the National Right to Life Committee, also suggested that the bureaucratic category used in Pittsburgh and Portland sends the right message. “I think Pittsburgh and Portland have it more accurate. They have their abortion leave in their policy that is supposed to be for bereavement — which means someone has died,” Tobias said. “They are acknowledging or admitting that someone has died in that abortion procedure.” 9. Season of giving: Wuerl reportedly donates balance of $2m fund, By The Pillar, December 21, 2021 Cardinal Donald Wuerl has reportedly given away the balance of a $2 million fund in the Archdiocese of Washington designed for the cardinal’s “continuing ministry activities.” Senior priests in the Archdiocese of Washington were informed earlier this month that the cardinal has donated the entirety of the fund to charities, according to several Church officials in the Archdiocese of Washington. Archdiocesan officials close to chancery told The Pillar that Wuerl had made the decision personally, and identified his own preferred charitable uses for the money, and that he had not been prompted by either archdiocesan officials or his successor, Cardinal Wilton Gregory.  The Pillar first reported in March on the existence of an Archdiocese of Washington fund of some $2 million designated for the “continuing ministry activities for [the] Archbishop Emeritus” in the 2020 financial year, up from just under $1.5 million the year before. According to the archdiocese’s financial statements, the funds were derived from “net assets without donor restrictions.” The archdiocese said subsequently that the money had come from donations made to the archdiocese specifically intended to support Wuerl’s life and ministry after retirement, and essentially formed a restricted fund within the archdiocesan accounts. 10. On ‘Traditionis’ dubia, will power overrule authority?, By JD Flynn, The Pillar, December 21, 2021, Opinion When Pope Francis published Traditionis custodes in July, the text was made available in English, Spanish, Italian, and German. In one provision, each language told bishops the same thing: If they wanted newly ordained priests to be able to offer Mass in the Extraordinary Form, they’d need to consult the Vatican before they gave permission.  But when the Congregation for Divine Worship and Sacraments responded on Saturday to questions about the Traditionis custodes, it said that bishops should not “merely,” seek a “consultative opinion, but a necessary authorisation given to the diocesan Bishop by the Congregation for Divine Worship.” It wasn’t that they had to consult, the Vatican said. It’s that they had to get permission. And bishops should know that’s what was required, the Congregation suggested, because that is what the Latin text — the official text —  of Traditionis custodes had said all along. The only problem? The Latin text of Traditionis custodes did not appear on the Vatican website, or anywhere else, until Dec. 17, the day before the Congregation issued its interpretation. In light of that circumstance, bishops who have been trying since July to navigate the actual implementation of the pope’s motu proprio might be forgiven for feeling they’d gotten a bit of a bait and switch.  Complicating things, of course, is that bishops do not seem technically bound by the provisions of the Congregation for Divine Worship’s Saturday responsa. Canonists have generally agreed that a Vatican dicastery, responding to dubia under its own authority, has no authority to authentically interpret canon law — to create the kind of legally binding interpretations that might have been made with a specific approval, or a specific delegation, from Pope Francis.  There is, of course, a difference between legally binding authority and power. And bishops who decide that instructions from the pope’s newly-selected liturgy czar do not have legal authority — even if they’re correct — might well discover that difference quickly. More than a few bishops will decide that whatever the canonists say, if the Vatican says it, they’d better do it. On the other hand, though, the pope has emphasized frequently that diocesan bishops don’t answer to curial prefects, and shouldn’t answer to curial prefects — that the curia was made for bishops, not bishops for the curia. If bishops don’t take up the instructions of the Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship, Pope Francis may have to decide how seriously he means that — whether he’ll force the question, or let it go. 11. Stand strong now, with the God-given weapon of Truth, By Thomas Farr, Legatus, December 1, 2021, Opinion “God created them male and female, and for this reason a man shall leave his mother and father, and take to him a wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” (Matt 19: 4-6) Imagine reading aloud, in almost any public forum, those words from Jesus. Or imagine reading the Church’s elaboration of Jesus’ teachings, such as this from Pope Francis: “Today children— children!—are taught in school that everyone can choose his or her sex…. Could gender, to be a woman or to be a man, be an option and not a fact of nature? This leads to error.” Consider the Equality Act, which passed the House with unanimous Democratic support and is awaiting action in the Senate. The bill would subject to civil and criminal penalties any person or institution guilty of “discrimination … on the basis of sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, pregnancy, childbirth….” In other words, the Equality Act will render opposition by Catholics to abortion, same-sex “marriage,” or irreversible sex- reassignment surgery a crime. Faithful Catholic churches, schools, charities, hospitals, doctors, nurses, counselors, and even parents will be in constant legal peril. And the law will deny them the option of pleading religious freedom in their defense.  In effect, the Equality Act would nationalize this assault on religious liberty and the ideology of sexual autonomy that drives it.  We Catholics have the right, and the duty, to stand together in convincing others that happiness in this life, and in the next, rests on freedom ordered to truth. Let us use the weapons Christ has given us. The stakes are high — for us, our Church, and our beloved nation. Thomas Farr is president of the Religious Freedom Institute, a nonprofit based in Washington, D.C., that defends religious freedom for everyone, everywhere. He is a member of the Northern Virginia Chapter.

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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