1. Alabama might avert an IVF disaster, but the antiabortion activists won’t stop there, By The Washington Post, February 26, 2024, Pg. A14, Editorial That didn’t take long. On Feb. 16, Alabama’s state Supreme Court ruled, 8-1, that frozen embryos are children, entitled to protection under an 1872 state law that allows parents to sue over the wrongful death of a minor child. Within a week, members of the state’s Republican-majority legislature and the GOP governor were promising to enact laws protecting in vitro fertilization, a fertility procedure that involves creating and freezing embryos in a lab. The backlash against the court’s ruling, both in Alabama and around the country, was that intense — as it should have been. Rooted in the 1872 law and a state constitutional provision making it Alabama’s public policy to recognize and support “the sanctity of unborn life and the rights of unborn children, including the right to life,” the ruling allowed three couples to sue a fertility center over the accidental destruction of embryos they had stored there. While those couples deserve some recompense, the court proceeded with what can only be called callous obliviousness to the wider implications of its decision.  To be sure, the interaction of its constitution and the 1872 law, plus the freak accident that resulted in destruction of a particular lab’s embryos, could make Alabama’s case unique. The mind-set behind the court’s ruling, however, is still widely held. State lawmakers in Louisiana, Missouri and Texas have — unsuccessfully so far — tried to curb birth control methods such as the “Plan B” emergency pill taken after sex and intrauterine devices (IUDs). These methods may prevent the implantation of an embryo into the uterine wall — unacceptable to some of those who consider embryos to be people. Aside from Alabama, at least 10 other states already have laws or policies that broadly define personhood as beginning at fertilization, according to advocacy group Pregnancy Justice. Antiabortion activists are already touting the Alabama ruling as “precedent” to argue in other states that “unborn life must be protected at every stage.” Even if Alabama corrects its Supreme Court’s error, the fact that it happened at all is a sobering moment for anyone who thought the post-Roe push to roll back reproductive freedom had ended, or would be narrowly focused. A stubborn minority is intent on curbing rights and freedoms that a majority of Americans, across the ideological spectrum, have come to rely on. And in some places, this minority has power. https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2024/02/25/alabama-embryo-ruling-personhood-ivf/__________________________________________________________ 2. Republicans address ‘complex’ IVF issue as Dems step up messaging, By Kelly Garrity, Politico, February 25, 2024, 1:09 PM Rep. Byron Donalds would “broadly support” federal protections for in-vitro fertilization, the Florida Republican said Sunday in the wake of an Alabama Supreme Court decision that threatened the future of the procedure in the state. “Like any type of bill that gets drafted on Capitol Hill, I want to see the devil in the details. But, yes, I could — I feel I could broadly support that,” he said during an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” when asked about possible federal legislation protecting the procedure. The Alabama ruling granting personhood rights to embryos has rocked the GOP, complicating the party’s standing with millions of people who may oppose abortion but support — and in some cases use — in vitro fertilization and other forms of fertility care. Particularly at issue is what to do with the excess embryos that don’t end up being used during IVF procedures. Alabama’s decision prevents those embryos from being discarded, effectively blocking the procedure from being practiced in the state. Several clinics have already paused their operations. Former President Donald Trump, the current frontrunner in the GOP presidential contest, declared his support for in vitro fertilization treatment and called on Alabama lawmakers to preserve access to it.  https://www.politico.com/news/2024/02/25/donalds-support-ivf-democrats-hammer-issue-00143203__________________________________________________________ 3. IVF, Alabama, and the Dobbs Ruling, The pausing of in-vitro fertility procedures looks like it won’t last long., By The Wall Street Journal, February 24, 2024, Pg. A12, Editorial By the time the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade two years ago, it had been nearly five decades since abortion law was made democratically, which is one reason the ruling unsettled the status quo. But now American voters will get the policies most people want, and so it will be in Alabama with in-vitro fertilization, often called IVF, which polls say is overwhelmingly popular.  The state court said it has “long held” that unborn children are covered by the wrongful death act. It declined to hold that the law “contains an unwritten exception to that rule for extrauterine children—that is, unborn children who are located outside of a biological uterus at the time they are killed.” This is not some grotesque finding, but a view consistent with the position that human life begins at conception and thus must be protected.  Given the clarification that’s likely coming, the pausing of IVF procedures in Alabama amid the legal uncertainty could produce needless heartache for couples. But with Roe gone, the people reign supreme on abortion policy, and that will be true on in-vitro fertilization.  https://www.wsj.com/articles/ivf-alabama-supreme-court-roe-v-wade-dobbs-abortion-6c0ceaaf__________________________________________________________ 4. At least 15 Catholic worshippers were killed in an attack during a service in northern Burkina Faso, By Chinedu Asadu, Associated Press, February 25, 2024, 12:37 PM At least 15 Catholic worshippers were killed in a Burkina Faso village on Sunday when gunmen attacked a community as they gathered for prayers in the country’s conflict-hit northern region, church officials said. The violence in the village of Essakane was a “terrorist attack” that left 12 of the Catholic faithful dead at the scene, while three others died later as they were being treated for their wounds, according to a statement issued by Abbot Jean-Pierre Sawadogo, vicar-general of the Catholic Diocese of Dori, where the attack happened. No further details were provided about the attack, which no group claimed responsibility for. But suspicion fell on jihadis who have frequently attacked remote communities and security forces, especially in the northern region.  https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2024/02/25/catholic-worshippers-killed-burkina-faso-attack/7f6cf6cc-d404-11ee-82ad-c2391b06a8f5_story.html__________________________________________________________ 5. German bishops to head to Rome after Vatican demands they scrap a vote on contentious lay council, By Nicole Winfield and Geir Moulson, Associated Press, February 23, 2024, 4:01 PM A delegation of German bishops is expected in Rome soon after the Vatican insisted they scrap a planned vote this week on a controversial proposal to let laypeople participate in a decision-making council alongside bishops. The aborted vote was the latest in years of efforts by the Holy See to rein in the German Church, which has embarked on a radical reform agenda that seeks to give the laity greater decision-making say on issues such as the role of women, sexual morality and priestly chastity in the church. Pope Francis has made clear the proposed German council, which had been approved last year by a two-thirds majority of German bishops and the country’s powerful lay group ZdK, was contrary to the sacramental structure of the church and that he personally had “interdicted” it.  https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2024/02/23/vatican-germany-reform-synod/c4714c5e-d28e-11ee-ac8b-765284b5203e_story.html__________________________________________________________ 6. Mexican church officials have helped arrange a truce between 2 warring drug cartels, By Fabiola SÁnchez, Associated Press, February 23, 2024, 10:18 PM Roman Catholic churchmen have helped arrange a truce between two warring drug cartels whose turf wars have blooded the state of Guerrero in southern Mexico, a priest said Thursday. It is the latest in a series of attempts by bishops and priests to get cartels to talk to each other in hopes of reducing bloody turf battles. The implicit assumption is that the cartels will divide up the territories where they charge extortion fees and traffic drugs, without so much killing. Rev. José Filiberto Velázquez, who had knowledge of the negotiations but did not participate in them, said the talks involved leaders of the notoriously violent Familia Michoacana cartel and the Tlacos gang, which is also known as the Cartel of the Mountain.  https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2024/02/23/mexico-cartels-church-negotiations-truce/543552f2-d2c3-11ee-ac8b-765284b5203e_story.html__________________________________________________________ 7. By bus, car and plane, women journey across Latin America for abortions, By Marina Dias and Terrence McCoy, The Washington Post, February 23, 2024, 5:00 AM  Cristina was 35 years old. She was 11 weeks pregnant. She came from a conservative Christian family in a conservative Christian nation where abortion was largely illegal, so she’d decided to travel to a country where it was not and bring an end to the pregnancy she didn’t want. Not that long ago, such a trip would have almost certainly meant a journey out of Latin America, which historically has had some of the world’s most restrictive abortion policies. But in the last five years, several of the region’s most populous countries have either decriminalized or legalized the procedure, reconfiguring the geography of abortion in Latin America and opening a pathway for women who want to end their pregnancies but live in countries where it’s prohibited.  In 2021, Argentina legalized abortions, allowing the termination of pregnancies up to 14 weeks. Then Colombia decriminalized the procedure in 2022, permitting abortions up to 24 weeks. And last year, Mexico’s Supreme Court decriminalized abortion federally, effectively permitting the procedure at all federal health facilities nationwide. But Brazil, which accounts for half of South America’s population and territory, has not budged on the issue. The procedure remains illegal except in cases of rape, risk to the mother’s life or cases of fetal anencephaly. Though incarceration is rare, illegal abortions are punishable by up to three years in prison.  There is little indication Brazil will follow its neighbors and loosen abortion restrictions anytime soon. Many oppose incarcerating women who abort pregnancies, but polls consistently show most Brazilians oppose the procedure’s legalization. A Supreme Court hearing on abortion last year, which could have provided an avenue to its decriminalization, was scrapped and hasn’t been rescheduled. The legal differences among Latin America’s major powers have given rise to an informal network of nongovernmental organizations, activists and abortion clinics who work — sometimes publicly, but more frequently in secret — to provide regional travel assistance and funding to pregnant women who live in countries where abortion remains illegal.  https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2024/02/23/brazil-latin-america-abortion-restrictions/__________________________________________________________ 8. Catholic University Installs Crucifixion Artwork by Imprisoned Catholic Activist Jimmy Lai, The large drawing, which depicts Christ on the cross flanked by eight orange flowers, is on permanent display by the St. Michael the Archangel Chapel in Catholic University’s Busch School of Business. It was created by Lai in prison., By Peter Pinedo, Catholic News Agency, February 23, 2024 The Catholic University of America (CUA) in Washington, D.C., has installed a drawing of the Crucifixion by imprisoned Hong Kong Catholic and pro-democracy activist Jimmy Lai. Father Robert Sirico, a supporter and friend of Lai’s, said during the installation ceremony on Thursday that the sketch is a testimony “not just of Jimmy’s struggle but the struggle of all people of Hong Kong” and “all of the people of China, who will, by faith, resist [oppression].” The large drawing depicts Christ on the cross flanked by eight orange flowers. It was created by Lai in prison, where, according to Father Sirico, he has been kept in solitary confinement for close to 1,500 days.  https://www.ncregister.com/cna/catholic-university-installs-crucifixion-artwork-by-imprisoned-catholic-activist-jimmy-lai__________________________________________________________ 9. On war’s anniversary, is ‘Fiducia’ a new obstacle to Vatican’s peace push on Ukraine?, By John L. Allen Jr., Crux, February 25, 2024, Opinion As the world marked the second anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine yesterday, the failure to date of all diplomatic efforts, including those of the Vatican, to bring the war to an end were painfully clear. The most obvious reason for those failures, of course, is the fact that neither Russia nor Ukraine have yet shown any real interest in making the sort of concessions that would be necessary for a negotiated settlement. Yet with regard to the Vatican specifically, there are a handful of additional factors which help explain why its efforts to play a mediating role have come up short, and recently a new one has begun to come into focus: The fact that Pope Francis’s external and internal agendas may be in conflict vis-à-vis engaging Russia. To wit, the very flexibility and non-traditional thinking that makes Francis more open to Russia’s geopolitical and diplomatic agenda ad extra, meaning with regard to the wider world, may also make this pope a tough sell for the Russians ad intra, meaning having to do with the internal life of the Church.  The statement followed an earlier interview with Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev of Budapest, head of the commission that studied Fiducia and the former number two official in the Russian Orthodox power structure after Kirill, in which Hilarion referred to the document as “a kind of shock.” “Everyone now will believe that the Church blesses homosexual couples,” he said, insisting that the document thereby “deceives those who receive such a blessing and those who witness it.” Notably, Hilarion generally is seen as among the moderates in the Russian Orthodox hierarchy, not part of the staunchly anti-Roman hardliners. The backlash to Fiducia stands in contrast with the pope’s broad opening to Russia on the geopolitical front, where substantively he’s closer to the position of the BRICS nations – now BRICS plus six, with the admission of Francis’s own Argentina, as well as Saudia Arabia, Iran, and others – than to Washington, Brussels or NATO.  From the beginning of his papacy, Francis has enjoyed a relatively amicable relationship with Putin, and the two men have found common cause before. In 2013, Francis and Putin joined forces in opposing what seemed at the time a Western push for the use of military force in Syria to promote a regime change, effectively keeping Assad in power. In a March 2023 interview, Francis also went out of his way to describe Putin as a man of culture. “He visited me three times as head of state, and one could have a conversation at a high level with him,” the pope said. “We spoke about literature once. He is a man who not only speaks Russian. He speaks German fluently and he speaks English. He is educated.” All of this suggests that, politically and diplomatically, Francis and his allies are not part of the anti-Russian consensus of the Western powers, a stance which theoretically might position the Vatican well to act as an intermediary. On the other hand, any such effort probably would have to pass through the Russian Orthodox Church – which, as we have seen, may appreciate the Argentine pontiff’s diplomatic style, but which appears to have doubts about some elements of his theological and doctrinal approach, thereby raising questions about the overall trust level in the relationship. From the broadly center-left perspective of this papacy, the desire to promote peace around the world, to hear the voice of the developing world, and to reach out to previously marginalized groups such as the LGBTQ+ community, undoubtedly all seem cut from the same cloth. The case of Russia, however, suggests that thing aren’t always quite that simple. Sometimes, one element of your agenda may actually be in conflict with another, however internally consistent they may seem to you. Then the truly hard part begins: You have to choose. https://cruxnow.com/news-analysis/2024/02/on-wars-anniversary-is-fiducia-a-new-obstacle-to-vaticans-peace-push-on-ukraine__________________________________________________________

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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