TCA Podcast, – “Conversations with Consequences,” Episode 95 – Roger Severino On Suing Biden & Tom Carroll Talks Success Of Catholic Schools!
Dr. Grazie Christie speaks with the former Chief of HHS’ Office of Civil Rights about a lawsuit he’s filed against the Biden Administration and the future of religious freedom and conscience protections in 2021. Grazie and TCA colleague Maureen Ferguson also chat with Thomas Carroll about the great success Catholic schools are having in Boston beating COVID–and we get a first look at Lumen Verum Academy opening this Fall!
1. Hey Joe Biden, Covid heroes at Catholic schools show road to reopening, Public-school systems, under the thumb of the teachers’ unions, are returning educational inequality to levels not seen since the days of segregation, By Ashley McGuire, USA Today, February 12, 2021, 5:01 AM, Opinion
Every afternoon, rain or shine, she stands outside my children’s Catholic school, wearing a mask and bearing a megaphone. Her name is Loretta Favret, and she’s the school principal. She’s memorized every car and what child belongs in it. As cars snake through the carpool line she calls the students by name, and they sprint to cars lined up according to the family’s assigned time slot. The kids are released in timed cohorts to minimize crowding and potential cross-cohort contamination in the event of a positive COVID case at school. Some seven months into the school year, there hasn’t been a single case yet.
Loretta is a pandemic hero. One among many in Catholic schools across the United States.

Catholic schools in all 50 states opened this fall for in-person learning where the local government officials would allow it. And where they would not, parochial schools fought hard for the right to open. Meanwhile, teachers’ unions have taken the opposite approach. They’ve fought every effort to get kids back in school and continually moved the goalposts, despite the facts, science and the increasingly loud and unified voice of the scientific and medical community arguing that kids belong in school. Where I live, not a single public school has opened — apart from for a minute fraction of students in some grades. Not even for children with the most severe of learning disabilities or other challenges such as extreme food insecurity and homelessness.

The data clearly shows that the risks and costs of remote learning, if it can be called that, as well as the risks and costs of isolating children, far outweigh the risks of COVID. Studies further show that schools simply do not contribute to community spread of the virus. Yet millions of America’s children, many of them low-income and among our most vulnerable, languish in digital hell. That is, if they even bother to log in.

But not the children attending Catholic parochial schools. The Catholic Church has long been at the forefront of the fight for education equality in America. Of the nearly two million Catholic school students, 40% live in the inner city and 20% are minorities. Many of these students are not even Catholic. They are children whose parents have sacrificed to rescue them from failing public schools. The Catholic Church happily subsidizes the cost of their schooling, often at a loss. Catholic schools boast graduation rates that are the envy of public schools at a fraction of the per-pupil cost.

Nearly a year into the pandemic, Catholic schools have shown the nation how to open safely on a dime. If President Biden wants to make good on his campaign promise to open America’s schools within his first 100 days in office, he might start by sitting down with the heads of America’s Catholic schools. I know at least one hero I can recommend, when she’s not too busy presiding, masked and megaphoned, over each school day’s afternoon pickup. 
Ashley McGuire is a senior Fellow with The Catholic Association and the author of Sex Scandal: The Drive to Abolish Male and Female
2. California’s Unscientific Worship Ban, Whether religious services are ‘essential’ isn’t a matter for government to decide., By Salvatore J. Cordileone, The Wall Street Journal, February 12, 2021, Pg. A15, Opinion
These days “follow the science” has become a cliché especially popular with government leaders. But when it comes to the constitutional right to worship, California began to follow the science only after a recent Supreme Court intervention.
Political elites issuing health orders that they themselves don’t obey—and destroying countless livelihoods without any scientific basis for such action—is infuriating. But it was especially so for us Catholics, who have scientific evidence that positively demonstrates we can celebrate Mass safely indoors. In lifting California’s blanket ban on indoor worship, the high court rightly acknowledged the blatant unfairness of treating religious worship differently from secular activities such as shopping.

As an American, I find it hard to digest that this happened. Even today, three justices of the Supreme Court would permit the government of the largest American state to shut the doors of churches indefinitely while keeping open activities secular elites consider “essential.”

The free exercise of religion means many things beyond the right to worship. But worship is the most fundamental part of it, and for months millions of Americans were deprived of that most simple natural right. Such blatant disregard of the Constitution bodes ill for everyone. These next four years will be a time either to coalesce around core ideals or continue to divide along ideological lines.
Court rulings don’t change the science. We will continue to worship outdoors as weather permits, as an extra safety precaution. But the decision allows us to exercise our constitutionally protected natural right to worship God without fear of harassment from government officials. For that, I am profoundly grateful.
Archbishop Cordileone leads the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of San Francisco.
3. Supreme Court Rebuffs Alabama’s Effort to Bar Pastor From Execution Chamber, The case was the latest in a series of disputes over the presence of spiritual advisers in execution chambers that have bitterly divided the justices., By Adam Liptak, The New York Times, February 12, 2021, 12:54 AM
The Supreme Court late Thursday night let stand a ruling that halted the execution of an Alabama inmate unless the state allowed his pastor to be present in the death chamber.

The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty filed a brief supporting Mr. Smith.
“Allowing a spiritual adviser in the execution chamber to pray over someone as he passes over into death is an ancient and common practice,” the brief said. “The federal government and multiple states have provided spiritual advisers to prisoners in many executions, including in 13 of the 20 executions carried out nationwide since 2020. Their practices show that what Smith requests can be done.”
4. Abuse case at Vatican pre-seminary captures risk, reward of transparency, By John L. Allen Jr., Crux, February 12, 2021, Opinion
A Vatican tribunal Wednesday heard testimony from the accused party in an unusual sexual abuse case, one involving a charge that one minor abused another during their time at a pre-seminary on Vatican grounds that provides altar boys for liturgies in St. Peter’s Basilica and that’s produced roughly 200 priestly vocations over three-quarters of a century.

No matter what happens, this trial is a high-risk, high-reward proposition for the Vatican and Pope Francis.
The risk is that it may conclude abuse happened right under the pope’s nose (in this case, Pope Benedict XVI), at a time when supposed reforms to combat such abuse in the Church were already well underway. It’s also already confirmed that nasty ideological battles over Vatican II are still being waged more than 50 years after it closed, often among current and aspiring priests who weren’t even alive while Vatican II actually was in session.
The Vatican is usually loath to air its dirty laundry in public, but here the decision seems to be to let it all hang out.
The reward, of course, is that Francis and the Vatican will get tremendous credit for transparency should this trial, at the end, be perceived as thorough and fair, and the verdict as reasonable under the circumstances.
In other words, it’s a pay now and claim your purchase later sort of deal, with the value of the purchase depending heavily on the integrity of the process. For that reason, the next three hearings in the case will be closely watched – including, one assumes, by the pontiff himself, who won’t be in the room, but who nevertheless has almost as much riding on the result as the accused and the accusers themselves.
5. Alabama cancels execution after court requires pastor, By Kim Chandler, Associated Press, February 12, 2021
An Alabama inmate on Thursday won a reprieve from a scheduled lethal injection after the U.S. Supreme Court said the state must allow his personal pastor in the death chamber.

The case was the latest in a series of legal fights over personal spiritual advisers at executions. The court in 2019 halted the execution of a Texas inmate who claimed his religious freedom would be violated if his Buddhist spiritual adviser wasn’t allowed to be in the death chamber with him.
6. California county reinstates ban on indoor worship, By Associated Press, February 12, 2021
Santa Clara County has again banned indoor worship services out of coronavirus concerns after briefly permitting them because of a federal court ruling.
The county’s public health department announced Thursday that it was reinstating the ban a day after the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California temporarily suspended an earlier order.
The court had issued a temporary injunction against the ban Monday in a challenge filed by five local churches, prompting the Silicon Valley county of 2 million to announce that indoor worship services could resume at 20 percent of a building’s capacity.
7. Judge stops pandemic capacity limits placed on New York synagogues, By Catholic News Service, February 12, 2021
A federal judge in Brooklyn Feb. 9 permanently blocked New York state capacity limits for worship at Orthodox synagogues in areas with high rates of COVID-19 infections.
The permanent injunction applies to all of the houses of worship in these areas in the state and is one of the first in the country to stop percentage-of-occupancy limits on worship attendance.
8. Civil Strategies to Defend Religious Freedom for All People of Faith, Now is not the time to panic. People of faith need strategies to weather this storm., By Andrea Picciotti-Bayer, National Catholic Register, February 12, 2021, Opinion
“In his first two weeks in office, President Biden has signed nearly as many executive orders as Franklin Roosevelt signed in his entire first month,” reported National Public Radio recently. In addition to this flurry of executive orders, the president has pulled other levers of executive authority by signing presidential memoranda, proclamations and letters. Some of these early actions are squarely at odds with the religious beliefs of many Americans.
Now is not the time to panic. People of faith need strategies to weather this storm.

The Supreme Court is currently not dominated by “activist judges.” But, thank goodness, it is sympathetic to the defense of religious freedom and conscience rights.

Under the Biden administration, religious or moral objectors will be silenced or fined for insisting on their rights to worship and exercise their religion freely. This is certainly unsettling. The best strategies for people of faith in these challenging times are to confidently speak truthfully about their beliefs and keep up a vigorous defense of religious freedom in court.

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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