1. More Pulpits Empty in Difficult Times, By Ian Lovett, The Wall Street Journal, February 22, 2022, Pg. A3 In religious groups across the country, clergy members are stepping down from the pulpit. They say the job, always demanding, has become almost impossible during the pandemic: Relationships with and among parishioners have frayed while meeting only over video, and political divisions have deepened, fueled by fights over Covid-19 protocols. Though no national data about clergy resignations exists, an October study from the Barna Group, which studies faith in the U.S., found that 38% of pastors were seriously considering leaving full-time ministry, up from 29% in January 2021. Among pastors under age 45, nearly half were considering quitting.  Some 3,544 Catholic parishes in the U.S. lack a parish priest, up 25% from in 2000, according to Georgetown University’s Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate. The Diocese of Buffalo, N.Y., recently launched a pilot program in which as many as six parishes share one priest. https://www.wsj.com/articles/houses-of-worship-face-clergy-shortage-as-many-resign-during-pandemic-11645452000?___________________________________________________________ 2. Bishops in Spain ask lawyers to audit their sex abuse record, By Aritz Parra, Associated Press, February 22, 2022, 7:39 AM A Madrid-based law firm will conduct a year-long inquiry into past and present sexual abuse committed by Spain’s Roman Catholic clergy. members of religious orders, teachers and other people associated with the church, the firm and the head of the country’s bishops’ conference said Tuesday. The announcement, made before dozens of cameras and reporters, marked a departure from the previous position of the Spanish Episcopal Conference, which for years rejected the idea of taking a comprehensive approach to investigating sex abuse. Cardinal Juan José Omella, the conference’s president, said the goal of the inquiry by law firm Cremades & Calvo Sotelo “is the help and reparation of the victims, establishing new and additional channels to collaborate and denounce in addition to those existing in over 40 offices established by the Church.” https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/bishops-in-spain-ask-lawyers-to-audit-their-sex-abuse-record/2022/02/22/87e06dc6-93dc-11ec-bb31-74fc06c0a3a5_story.html___________________________________________________________ 3. Pro-lifers appeal to reinstate ‘Preborn Lives Matter’ lawsuit, Activists: D.C. officials singled them out for graffiti, By Sean Salai, The Washington Times, February 22, 2022, Pg. A10 Pro-life activists are seeking to reinstate a lawsuit against the District claiming that police violated the free speech rights of two college students who were arrested for chalking “Black Preborn Lives Matter” on a sidewalk in front of Planned Parenthood in the summer of 2020.  Attorneys from the conservative advocacy nonprofit Alliance Defending Freedom, which is representing the pro-life activists in the appeals process, argue that Judge Boasberg wrongly dismissed the First Amendment’s protections against viewpoint discrimination and the Fifth Amendment’s prohibition against selective enforcement. They are asking a three-judge panel to reinstate the lawsuit on those grounds. “The District of Columbia singled out Frederick Douglass Foundation and Students for Life of America for discriminatory treatment based on their pro-life message,” said attorney Erin Hawley. “The Metropolitan Police Department turned a blind eye towards certain favored speech while shutting down pro-life speech with which it disagreed. This is the essence of viewpoint discrimination and selective enforcement in violation of the First and Fifth Amendments.” https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2022/feb/21/pro-lifers-file-appeal-against-dc-black-preborn-li/___________________________________________________________ 4. Surveys find scandal, secularism eroding in U.S. pastors, Experts: ‘Baggage’ has caused diminished respect for decades, By Mark A. Kellner, The Washington Times, February 21, 2022, Pg. A6 America’s clergy have lost the confidence of millions, according to two recent surveys, and experts say pastors will have to confront some harsh truths to regain that trust. A poll released last week by Barna Group, an evangelical Christian polling firm, found that only 57% of Americans at least “somewhat agree” that a pastor is a trustworthy source of wisdom. The results drew on surveys conducted for “The Resilient Pastor,” a new book by Barna senior fellow Glenn Packiam. Nearly a quarter of Americans, 24%, say they’re “unsure” about the trustworthiness of pastors, with 1 in 5 Christians (21%) doubting the clergy. And only 21% of pastors say their neighbors “very much” see them in a trustworthy light. A survey in late 2021 by the Pew Research Center showed that 67% of Americans had “a fair amount” or “a great deal” of confidence in religious leaders “to act in the best interests of the public,” down from 76% in 2018. https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2022/feb/18/scandal-secularism-eroding-trust-americas-pastors-/___________________________________________________________ 5. Like in Arizona, botched baptisms roiled Michigan church, By Ed White, Associated Press, February 21, 2022, 12:56 PM One word caught the ear of a young priest a few years ago when his father shared a video of his 1990 baptism at a suburban Detroit church. “Wait,” the Rev. Matthew Hood recalled thinking. “Something doesn’t seem right here.” Indeed, an error by a deacon who said “We baptize” instead of “I baptize” spoiled Hood’s baptism in the eyes of the Catholic Church — and, in domino-like fashion, erased his other sacraments and meant that he wasn’t really a priest. It was perhaps the most significant consequence from a controversy that emerged nearly two years ago at St. Anastasia Church in Troy, after the Vatican said the use of “we” invalidates baptisms in the Catholic faith. https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/like-in-arizona-botched-baptisms-roiled-michigan-church/2022/02/21/1e854be2-9320-11ec-bb31-74fc06c0a3a5_story.html?___________________________________________________________ 6. Are canonical reforms about the Vatican bottom line?, By Ed. Condon, The Pillar, February 21, 2022 Pope Francis issued a series of changes last week to the Church’s universal canon law, which the pope said were meant to foster “a healthy decentralization” in the life of the Church and emphasize the authority of diocesan bishops and religious superiors. But whatever the ecclesiological motivations behind the changes, the pope’s new reforms also come with an obvious financial saving for the Holy See. While Francis has tightened belts and slashed budgets amid declining revenues, his new canonical reforms will keep a lot of files off Vatican desks, helping the Holy See to embrace a new kind of austerity approach: “doing less, with less.”  The somewhat scattershot collection of canonical changes sees the Roman curia hand off direct oversight of several issues: pious wills, exclaustration and dismissal of religious, and the drafting of catechisms and programs for priestly formation by bishops’ conferences.  It is certainly true that decentralization is an effect of those changes. But the pope has not shown himself to be universally concerned with that kind of decentralization, even in other recent reforms. Curtailing the ability of bishops to regulate local liturgical practice in relation to the Extraordinary Form of the Mass, for example, would seem to row in the other direction from decentralization. And in another motu proprio this month, Francis effectively junked a number of drafted proposals which would have handed over primary doctrinal and disciplinary authority to local bishops and bishops’ conferences, instead of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The selective approach to decentralization suggests there may be more prosaic concerns embedded in last week’s canonical changes, which would make “decentralization” more a practical than philosophical goal.  https://www.pillarcatholic.com/p/are-canonical-reforms-about-the-vatican?___________________________________________________________ 7. Colombia’s highest court legalizes abortion up to 24 weeks, By Manuel Rueda, Associated Press, February 21, 2022, 7:28 PM Colombia became the latest country in Latin America to expand access to abortion Monday as the nation’s Constitutional Court voted to legalize the procedure until the 24th week of pregnancy. The decision by the tribunal of nine judges fell short of the expectations of pro-choice groups that had been pushing for abortion to be completely decriminalized in Colombia.  Before the ruling, Colombia allowed abortions only when a woman’s life was in danger, a fetus had malformations or a pregnancy resulted from rape. https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/colombias-highest-court-rules-to-decriminalize-abortion/2022/02/21/c8bfe3e8-9365-11ec-bb31-74fc06c0a3a5_story.html___________________________________________________________ 8. South Carolina bill to consider churches essential in emergencies advances, By Associated Press, February 21, 2022 A bill that would assure churches can meet in person in South Carolina during a pandemic or other emergency as long as other essential businesses can stay open is advancing in the state Senate. A Senate subcommittee unanimously approved the bill last week, sending it to the Senate Judiciary Committee. The bill passed the House last March. Supporters of the bill said they know the state never closed any churches when other businesses were closed in spring 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic started. But they said the proposal is needed to make sure it never happens, citing other states that did require churches to close. https://cruxnow.com/church-in-the-usa/2022/02/south-carolina-bill-to-consider-churches-essential-in-emergencies-advances___________________________________________________________ 9. Pope exempts Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter from Latin Mass restrictions, By Elise Ann Allen, Crux, February 21, 2022 Despite his efforts last year to crack down on use of the Traditional Latin Mass, Pope Francis this month issued a decree exempting members of a priestly society with a special attachment to the traditional liturgy from adhering to the restrictions. Headquartered in Switzerland, the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter (FSSP) is a Society of Apostolic Life of pontifical right that was founded in 1988 by 12 priests who were formerly members of the Society of St. Pius X, after its founder, Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, was excommunicated for consecrating four bishops without the proper papal mandate.  While the Extraordinary Form of the Latin Rite liturgy is at the heart of the community’s charism and is enshrined in its governing constitutions, the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter remains faithful to Rome and to the authority of the pope. https://cruxnow.com/vatican/2022/02/pope-exempts-priestly-fraternity-of-st-peter-from-latin-mass-restrictions___________________________________________________________ 10. Pontifical Academy for Life Members’ Support for Assisted Suicide Draws Criticism, Cardinal Willem Eijk, a medical doctor and a member of the academy, firmly rejected the support, saying assisted suicide and euthanasia both bear ‘the same moral responsibility’ in carrying out a murder., By Edward Pentin, National Catholic Register, February 21, 2022 Two members of the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy for Life have come under fire for publicly urging support for assisted suicide as a tactic to prevent the legalization of voluntary euthanasia in Italy. Jesuit Father Carlo Casalone, a professor of moral theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University, proposed such an approach that critics stress fully contradicts Church teaching in a Jan. 15 article in the Jesuit periodical La Civilta Cattolica — a journal whose articles are cleared by the Secretariat of State.  His view was supported by fellow academy member Marie-Jo Thiel, professor of ethics at the University of Strasbourg, who wrote in the French newspaper Le Monde on Jan. 31 that Father Casalone’s suggestion was a sign of a broader change in the Church’s position.   Cardinal Willem Eijk, also a qualified medical doctor and a member of the academy, firmly rejected Father Casalone’s suggestion and argumentation. The cardinal-archbishop of Utrecht in the Netherlands argued that there is “no significant moral difference” between medically assisted suicide and voluntary euthanasia, “neither from the patient’s side nor from that of the physician,” as both bear “the same moral responsibility” in carrying out a murder. The cardinal told the Register that, in allowing assisted suicide, “one is confined to also allow euthanasia,” and therefore the argument that by allowing the legislation of assisted suicide one could prevent the legislation of euthanasia “makes no sense.” “One would simply and automatically pave the way for legalizing euthanasia, because the ethical difference between both is not significant,” he said. https://www.ncregister.com/news/pontifical-academy-for-life-members-support-for-assisted-suicide-draws-criticism___________________________________________________________ 11. Abortion Debate Might Break Democrats’ Longtime Hold in South Texas, By Edgar Sandoval, The New York Times, February 20, 2022, Pg. A21 Like the majority of her neighbors in the heavily Latino community of Laredo, Angelica Garza has voted for Democrats for most of her adult life. Her longtime congressman, Henry Cuellar, with his moderate views and opposition to abortion, made it an easy choice, she said. But as up-and-coming Democratic candidates in her patch of South Texas have leaned ever more liberal, Ms. Garza, a dedicated Catholic, cast a ballot for Donald Trump in 2016, primarily because of his anti-abortion views. In choosing Mr. Trump that year and again in 2020, Ms. Garza joined a parade of Latino voters who are changing the political fabric of South Texas. In the Laredo region, where about nine out of 10 residents are Catholic, many registered voters appear to be driven largely by the single issue of abortion.  Voters like Ms. Garza are worrying Democratic leaders, whose once tight grip and influence on the Texas-Mexico border region has loosened in recent electoral cycles. Republicans have claimed significant victories across South Texas, flipping Zapata County, south of Laredo on the bank of the Rio Grande, and a state district in San Antonio. They also made gains in the Rio Grande Valley, where the border counties delivered so many votes for Mr. Trump in 2020 that they helped negate the impact of white voters in urban and suburban areas of the state who voted for Joe Biden. https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/19/us/texas-laredo-abortion.html___________________________________________________________ 12. Pope’s use of authority becomes new front in Vatican ‘trial of the century’, By John L. Allen Jr., Crux, February 20, 2022, Opinion As the dust began to settle last year on the Vatican’s troubled $400 million dollar land deal in London, and as the colossal dimensions of the failure it represents became clear, Pope Francis was determined to put someone on trial, including his former chief of staff, Italian Cardinal Becciu, along with nine other defendants. Yet, under the heading of “be careful what you wish for,” Francis could find that the primary person on trial ends up being not Becciu and the rest, but himself. That, at least, seems to be the new tactic defense lawyers rolled out Friday, when a Vatican tribunal led by veteran Italian jurist Giuseppe Pignatone conducted its latest hearing in a process that’s been underway for seven months and still hasn’t gotten anywhere close to considering the actual charges.  On Friday, a new front opened in the struggles over whether this trial should ever get off the ground, this time focusing on the role of Pope Francis himself. Specifically, defense lawyers Marco Franco, representing financier Gianluigi Torzi who helped broker the London deal, and Luigi Panella, representing the Secretariat of State’s former money manager Enrico Crasso, raised the issue of four legal decrees Francis issued at the start of the process, known as rescriptum. That, attorneys argued, violated due process, the Vatican’s own legal norms, and basic principles of human rights. Panella charged that the rescripts undercut the legitimacy of the entire process, putting it “outside the laws of this state, but also outside the principles of a fair trial guaranteed by international human rights conventions and the Italian Constitution.”  From the beginning of his papacy, Francis has not been bashful about exercising the powers of his office. Earlier in the week, we saw him issue two more motu proprio, meaning changes to church law on his own initiative, extending his already significant lead in the all-time issuance of the papal equivalent of Executive Orders. Supporters see the pope’s willingness to rule by decree as the resolve needed to make reform stick, while critics see it as arbitrary and excessive. Up to this point, no one in the Vatican system was really in a position to assess authoritatively whether Francis ever abused his authority. Now, in a sense, that’s precisely the call Pignatone is being asked to make. While a Vatican tribunal can’t simply overturn a papal decree, since the pope’s personal authority is not a matter for judicial review, it could hold that this specific use of authority invalidates the trial, which would still be a major setback. However things shake out, this latest turn in the Vatican’s trial of the century is a terrific lesson in the Law of Unintended Consequences. Pope Francis wanted this trial because he thought it was important to hold someone accountable – without anticipating, of course, that “someone” could turn out to be him. https://cruxnow.com/news-analysis/2022/02/popes-use-of-authority-becomes-new-front-in-vatican-trial-of-the-century___________________________________________________________ 13. In Traditionally Catholic Poland, the Young Are Leaving the Church, Secularization, sex-abuse scandals and the country’s culture wars are contributing to the decline, By Francis X. Rocca and Natalia Ojewska, The Wall Street Journal, February 19, 2022, 4:36 AM Poland is known as Europe’s last Catholic bastion, the only major country on the continent where the church still heavily influences political, social and cultural life. But religiosity among the young is falling, suggesting that the country could soon look much like its western neighbors in religious terms, with broader implications for its society and politics.  In Poland today, 97.6% of the population of 38 million has been baptized into the faith, according to the Vatican. Catholicism has been inseparable from Polish national identity for centuries, especially during the decades of Communist rule. But a study last year by Poland’s Center for Public Opinion Research found that the percentage of Poles who regularly attend church is 43% among the general adult population and 23% among young people. Of more than 100 countries studied by the Pew Research Center in 2018, Poland was secularizing the fastest, as measured by the disparity between the religiosity of young people and their elders. While 40% of Poles over 40 years old said religion was very important to them, only 16% of younger adults said so. And the number of men who entered Polish seminaries in 2021 to study for the priesthood was just 356, less than half the number that did so in 2012, according to Poland’s Catholic Information Agency. https://www.wsj.com/articles/in-old-school-catholic-poland-youth-are-leaving-the-church-11645263383?___________________________________________________________ 14. The Abuse of Abuse, The harshness of the attacks that were directed at Benedict XVI following the report’s publication is not justified by the actual evidence in the report, and seem strangely timed considering the recent German Synodal Way., By National Catholic Register, February 19, 2022, Editorial Clergy sexual abuse of minors is an appalling crime. It’s a scandal so grave that it has completely undermined the trust of many of the faithful in their Catholic leaders. It has also profoundly injured the Church’s capacity to undertake its fundamental evangelical mission of the salvation of souls. That’s why it’s so disturbing to see this issue cynically commandeered by some progressive Catholics. The Church must continue to strive for authentic solutions to combat sexual abuse, support the victims of abuse, punish sexual abusers, and learn from prior mistakes. Instead, these Catholics exploit it as an instrument to advance agendas that contradict settled Church teachings — as in the case of the doctrinal dissent that currently is being promoted openly by the German Church’s highly problematic “Synodal Way.” Equally disturbing is the willingness of these Catholics to misuse the abuse scandal to disparage certain Church leaders, more than others who are viewed more favorably because of their particular worldviews. The most glaring example is the criticism directed at Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI — by some German Church officials and from many media outlets — to the German law firm Westpfahl Spilker’s report released last month after investigating the handling of sexual abuse cases by the Archdiocese of Munich. In a recent EWTN News interview defending Benedict XVI, Archbishop Georg Gänswein, the former pope’s longtime personal secretary, referenced a telling phrase that some German Catholics have coined to describe what’s in play when the sexual-abuse issue is hijacked to effect wide doctrinal changes and to denigrate Church leaders whose viewpoints don’t conform with these progressive agendas: They accurately describe it as the “abuse of abuse.” As Archbishop Gänswein also pointed out, the harshness of the attacks that were directed at Benedict following the report’s publication is not justified by the actual evidence in the report, in terms of his limited culpability for mishandling abuse.   A spiritual and practical mea culpa over the scandal of clerical sexual abuse must guide continued reforms within the Church, not a thinly veiled spirit of dissent set on dismantling fundamental beliefs of our Catholic faith. https://www.ncregister.com/commentaries/the-abuse-of-abuse___________________________________________________________ 15. USCCB seminary norms won’t include proposed background database, By The Pillar, February 18, 2022 A U.S. bishops’ conference draft policy update on seminary formation does not incorporate a call to build a national screening database of applicants to seminaries and religious orders. Advocates say a database could help flag problem seminary applicants before they are accepted, by tracking rejected applications from seminaries or religious orders, along with those applications deferred or withdrawn. The database was proposed to the U.S. bishops’ conference by an Ohio seminary nearly six years ago, but there has been no apparent move toward adopting it. It has not been included in the USCCB’s draft for a sixth edition of the Program of Priestly Formation, the policy document which guides seminary admission and training in the U.S. https://www.pillarcatholic.com/p/usccb-seminary-norms-wont-include?___________________________________________________________ 16. Is the Pope Catholic? Yes, It Turns Out, Francis, thought of as a liberal, infuriates progressives by reaffirming church teaching on sexual morality and liturgical precision., By J.D. Flynn, The Wall Street Journal, February 18, 2022, 6:16 PM, Opinion The Catholic Church in America has found itself in an unexpectedly fractious pronoun war. In 2020 the Vatican decided that when a priest says “I baptize,” he does it validly, but when he says “we baptize,” the sacrament doesn’t happen. The issue has revealed a growing impatience among progressive priests with Pope Francis, whom they once claimed as their champion. He’s proved to be less of an ideologue, and more of a Catholic, than most church liberals had hoped.  Pope Francis is a complicated man who doesn’t fit neatly into American left-right political paradigms. He made a fair number of decisions early in his papacy that exasperated conservative American Catholics, so he got tagged in the public mind as a liberal. Many progressive American priests cheered his reforms, but some went a step further. They began to portray their own revisionist agendas as the pope’s. Some even came to believe it. Pope Francis hasn’t done all the things those progressives hoped he would.  The pope, whether revisionist clerics like it or not, is a Catholic. And it seems that’s finally ticking them off. Mr. Flynn is editor in chief of the Pillar, a Catholic news website. https://www.wsj.com/articles/pope-catholic-yes-it-turns-out-baptism-invalid-pronouns-progressive-liturgy-francis-liberal-theology-church-11645220904?___________________________________________________________

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.