1. Caution, cancellations mark Ash Wednesday in time of virus.

By Nicole Winfield and Jim Gomez, Associated Press, February 26, 2020, 6:14 AM

The Vatican was going ahead with plans for Pope Francis to celebrate the Ash Wednesday ritual kicking off the Catholic Church’s Lenten season, but elsewhere in Italy Masses were canceled over fears of the new coronavirus and other Catholic countries took precautions.

In the Philippines — Asia’s only majority Roman Catholic country — priests sprinkled ashes on the heads of the faithful rather than making the mark of the cross on their foreheads to avoid physical contact.


2. Late-term abortion restrictions blocked: Two bills fall short of 60-vote threshold.

By Alex Swoyer, The Washington Times, February 26, 2020, Pg. A4

Senate Democrats blocked two bills Tuesday aimed at banning abortions after 20 weeks and threatening prison for health care providers who don’t give medical aid to babies born after failed abortions.

Senators voted 53-44 to move forward with the 20-week ban, but it was short of the 60 votes needed.

The bill that would have targeted health care providers was blocked 56-41.

Sen. Ben Sasse, Nebraska Republican, had introduced that measure, which required health care workers to give medical care to a baby born alive after a botched abortion, ensuring the child is admitted to a hospital. If they failed to act, they would have faced a fine or prison time.


3. Small Texas Cities Sued Over Abortion Bans: ACLU says anti-abortion ‘sanctuaries’ are violating the Constitution.

By Jacob Gershman, The Wall Street Journal, February 26, 2020, Pg. A5

The American Civil Liberties Union is suing seven small rural cities in eastern Texas that enacted ordinances declaring it crime to procure or perform abortions in their jurisdictions.

In a complaint filed in federal court Tuesday, the ACLU said the cities are violating the Constitution in their efforts to make themselves abortion-free “sanctuaries.”

Since last year, about a dozen Texas cities have enacted ordinances proclaiming an abortion ban within their borders. Texas as a whole restricts abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. The ordinances say the government won’t enforce the bans unless the Supreme Court overrules Roe v. Wade and other precedents recognizing abortion rights.


4. Explaining Pope’s soft touch on survival of Middle Eastern Christianity.

By John L. Allen Jr., Crux, February 26, 2020, Opinion

By now, the statistics on the collapse of the Christian population in the Middle East are wearily familiar. The situation is worse in the war-torn nations of Iraq and Syria, for obvious reasons, than in historic Christian strongholds such as Egypt and Lebanon, but there too the pressures are strong and the trendlines alarming.

Though there are promising pockets of resilience, such as the effort by Christians on Iraq’s Nineveh Plains to rebuild villages all but wiped out under ISIS occupation, most observers agree that the rise of anti-Christian violence fueled by jihadist intolerance has rendered the Christian future deeply uncertain.

As it happens, Pope Francis last Sunday traveled to the Italian coastal city of Bari for a meeting of Mediterranean bishops organized by the Italian bishops’ conference, at which all the Catholic patriarchs and other Church leaders from the Middle East were present. One might have expected the pontiff to use the occasion to issue a passionate cri de coeur in defense of a local church representing the historic roots of the faith, and which is presently fighting for its life.

In the event, that’s not quite what happened.

The pope referred directly to the trauma of Middle East Christians just once: “For our part, brothers, let us speak out to demand that government leaders protect minorities and religious freedom. The persecution experienced above all – but not only – by Christian communities is a heart-rending fact that cannot leave us indifferent.”

In the abstract, it may seem jarring that Pope Francis didn’t focus more on the suffering of the members of his own flock. Three points, however, may help explain the discretion.

First, it’s important to note that his brief allusion to religious freedom was not the only time he mentioned the Christian communities of the region.

Second, Francis may be reticent to talk too explicitly about Christian suffering when he’s well aware they’re not the only religious community in the firing line. Indeed, the overwhelming majority of the victims of Islamic terror in the region are other Muslims, especially members of minority groups such as the Druze, the Alawites, and the Alevis, as well as other religious and ethnic communities such as the Yazidis in Iraq.

Third, Francis may well also believe that anti-Christian persecution in the Middle East is an acute symptom of a deeper disease: An especially virulent form of the “throwaway” culture that views some lives not merely with indifference but acute hatred, and is willing to embrace the most extreme measures to eliminate them.

Until that disease is treated, Francis may feel, focusing on its symptoms is merely a stopgap, delaying the real day of reckoning. As an alternative, he urged building a culture of dialogue.

To be sure, Christian victims of ISIS and other jihadist groups in the Middle East may be hurt that the pope didn’t say more about their plight, expecting that he of all people, should be their voices. Christian bishops are also often frustrated, saying privately that their own governments are incapable, or unwilling, to protect Christians adequately, and that someone needs to rouse the international community to act.

Who, they ask, is likely to do that if not the pope?

For those constituencies, Francis’s strategic discretion about anti-Christian persecution can be hard to swallow. Meanwhile, ideological opponents of the pope in the West will point to it as a misguided policy of appeasement, or leftist PC convention run amuck, or just basic weakness and cowardice.

Still, whatever one makes of the discretion, Bari seemed to confirm there is a strategy. The only thing that’s not clear – and, let’s face it, this is the pope’s big roll of the dice – is whether it’ll work.


5. Appeals court upholds Trump administration’s Title X ‘Protect Life Rule’

By Catholic News Service, February 26, 2020

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Feb. 24 upheld the Trump administration’s “Protect Life Rule” that enforces the Title X rule banning taxpayer funds from being used to promote or provide abortion as family planning.

The Trump administration finalized the “Protect Life Rule” in February 2019. By its action, the administration reaffirmed that abortion “is not family planning,” Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City, Kansas, said in a statement at the time. “Abortion ends the lives of families’ most vulnerable members, as well as damaging the spiritual, mental and physical health of mothers.”


6. Dems thwart Senate Republicans on 2 abortion-related bills.

By Matthew Daly, Associated Press, February 25, 2020, 4:37 PM

Senate Democrats on Tuesday blocked a pair of Republican bills that would ban most late-term abortions and threaten prison for doctors who don’t try saving the life of infants born alive during abortions.


7. Supreme Court has opportunity to protect religious foster agencies from anti-Christian assault.

By Nicole Russell, The Washington Examiner, February 25, 2020, 1:04 PM

The Supreme Court has finally agreed to hear another important religious liberty case.

The case involves Philadelphia foster moms Sharonell Fulton and Toni Simms-Busch, who together with Catholic Social Services, have been fighting the city of Philadelphia over child welfare services since 2018.

Faith-based organizations are excited about the Supreme Court’s decision to take this case on.

Catholic Association legal adviser Andrea Picciotti-Bayer said in a statement:

“Faith-based groups shouldn’t be forced to abandon their deeply held religious and moral convictions in order to serve children in desperate need. Today’s Supreme Court decision to review the City of Philadelphia’s intolerant and discriminatory action against the Catholic Social Services foster-care program is a welcome first step toward reopening doors to loving and stable foster homes.”


8. What do Catholics believe about the Church, the devil, and faith? A new poll sheds light.

By Matt Hadro, Catholic News Agency, February 25, 2020, 2:00 PM

A poll released Monday provides new insight into the religious practices, beliefs, and other demographic trends of U.S. Catholics.

Only a small majority of Catholics in the U.S., 56%, say they accept “all” or “most” of what the Church teaches, according to the poll, released Feb. 24 by RealClear Opinion Research. Only 18% say they accept all the Church’s teachings and try to live them out, with another 38% saying they “generally accept most of the Church’s teachings” and try to put them into practice.

A slight majority of Catholics, 51%, believe that religion is “very important” in their own lives, while another 35% deem it to be “somewhat important.”

The poll reveals a divide in Catholic acceptance of particular Church teachings.

While more than seven-in-ten Catholics, 72%, believe that certain actions are “intrinsically evil,” a majority do not think that abortion, euthanasia, and physician-assisted suicide are intrinsically evil acts.

The vast majority of Catholics, 81%, however, believe in the existence of Hell, and 78% believe that Satan exists.

A substantial majority of Catholics also do not attend Mass on a weekly basis—although the Church holds that Catholics are required to attend Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation.

35% attend Mass at least once a week—less than one percent attend Mass daily, 5% more than go once a week, and 29% once a week.


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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