1. Pope to visit Hungary in April, migration and war on agenda, By Nicole Winfield and Justin Spike, Associated Press, February 27, 2023, 7:04 AM Pope Francis will visit Hungary at the end of April, the Vatican said Monday, in a trip expected to focus on migration to Europe and Russia’s war in Ukraine. The April 28-30 trip to Budapest represents a proper state visit after Francis made a brief, hours-long stopover in 2021 to close out a church conference. That visit was visibly awkward, given that Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s hard-line views on migration and Francis’ call for countries to welcome those fleeing war, hardship and poverty. Since then, Hungary has accepted hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians fleeing Russia’s invasion. Francis, who has repeatedly expressed solidarity with Ukraine, met at the Vatican with Orban last April and thanked him for taking them in. https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/pope-to-visit-hungary-in-april-migration-and-war-on-agenda/2023/02/27/da3b913a-b696-11ed-b0df-8ca14de679ad_story.html__________________________________________________________ 2. After Pope Francis’ visit, South Sudan relief charity sees renewed interest and prayers, By Jonah McKeown, Catholic News Agency, February 26, 2023, 4:00 AM Earlier this month, Pope Francis became the first pope — indeed, the first Western leader — to visit South Sudan. Amid an enthusiastic welcome, more than 100,000 people attended his papal Mass Feb. 5 in the capital city of Juba, during which the pope made an impassioned plea for peace in the war-torn nation. For workers at a relief agency that has supplied aid to the people of South Sudan for 25 years, the pope’s visit was a galvanizing event that shed an international spotlight on a beloved but severely ailing country — the most dangerous country in the world for aid workers, according to the U.N. “There are times when you’re working in South Sudan where it just feels like you are living on another planet, or working on another planet; the challenges are just so drastically different than what people in the West conceive of,” said Matt Smith, vice president of strategic partnerships and development at the Washington, D.C.-based Sudan Relief Fund.  Since Sudan Relief Fund (SRF) began operations in 1998, its goal has been the provision of immediate humanitarian relief — such as food and medicine — while also keeping an eye on the future, Smith said, working to develop institutions of civil society that promote long-term stability, such as medical and vocational training. The nonprofit provided more than $5 million in aid in 2021, according to its most recent annual report. Among numerous other projects, the organization founded a hospital, “Mother of Mercy,” in the Nuba Mountains. It also built and continues to support the Catholic University of South Sudan, the only university in South Sudan — as of 2021 — still functioning and graduating students. SRF also supports a vocational training school in the western part of the region of Equatoria, deep in the jungle on the border with Central Africa Republic and the Congo. The center was founded by a priest, Father Avelino Bassols, who started a vocational training center for internally displaced people (IDPs). There the priest trains the IDPs in skills such as carpentry and mechanics.  In their relief work, Sudan Relief Fund’s main partner is the local Catholic Church, Smith said. Church leaders in four dioceses in South Sudan, as well as the Sudan Catholic Bishops’ Conference, are able to act as effective, credible partners to deliver aid dollars where they are most needed. https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/253740/after-pope-francis-visit-south-sudan-relief-charity-sees-renewed-interest-and-prayers__________________________________________________________ 3. As synodality summit looms, navigating a papacy’s imperial phase, By John L. Allen Jr., Crux, February 26, 2023, Opinion When Pope John Paul II marked his 25th year in office in 2003, American Catholic theologian Richard McBrien spoke for many liberal critics in opining that the pontiff’s legacy was decidedly mixed, with the biggest negative being “his re-centralization of authority in the papacy at the expense of the [Second Vatican Council’s] teaching on collegiality.” Of course, John Paul II was seen as a conservative. The presumption in many quarters was that with the transition to the more progressive Pope Francis, the Vatican II vision of collegiality, meaning shifting control over many matters away from Rome and toward local bishops, finally would be realized.  Yet several stories of late seem to tell a somewhat different tale. In a move that has once again stirred the hornet’s nest of traditionalist Catholic sentiment, Pope Francis this week issued a rescript, meaning a legal decree, requiring local bishops to obtain Vatican permission before granting permission to celebrate the pre-Vatican II Latin Mass in parish churches or allowing priests ordained after July 16, 2021, to use the older rite. Conservative news outlets have already noted the contrast between the pope’s decentralizing rhetoric and the clearly centralizing thrust of the rescript. In all honesty, it’s not the only example. Two days later, Francis issued another legal instrument, this one a motu proprio, regarding the financial patrimony of the Holy See. In essence, the decree stipulates that all assets of institutions created by departments of the Roman Curia, or by other entities linked to the Holy See, belong to the Vatican and are subject to the pope’s control.  Yet beyond reform, there are almost certainly other factors at work, one of which is structural and the other psychological. Structurally, executives of whatever political stripe generally seek to enhance the authority of the executive branch. In his acclaimed book The Imperial Presidency, Arthur Schlesinger identified both FDR, a Democrat, and Nixon, a Republican, as architects of greatly expanded executive authority in the United States. It’s only in a hyper-polarized age it would surprise anyone that both a conservative and a liberal pope seem to like papal authority, in roughly equal measure. Here’s the psychological bit: Most new popes, especially those who’ve led dioceses for a while, probably come into office believing most other bishops think like them. After all, they’ve just been elected by a two-thirds vote in the College of Cardinals, and most of their bishop-friends likely share their views (which is probably why they’re friends to begin with). Based on the assumption that “most bishops” want what the pope wants, it’s easy to advocate decentralization and collegiality. Over time, however, every pope has to reckon with the fact that there are significant pockets of bishops who don’t actually share their agenda. John Paul II had his Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, just as Pope Francis has his Cardinal Gerhard Müller – and in both cases, Martini and Müller weren’t speaking just for themselves. As popes begin to hear time’s winged chariot hurrying near, it becomes less natural to defer to the judgments of a fissiparous and unpredictable body of some 5,000 Catholic bishops around the world, and more tempting simply to rule by decree. A growing cross-section of observers believe we’ve now entered that phase of the Francis era. How this operational dimension of the papacy will be reconciled with the ecclesiological concepts likely to be articulated by the looming Synod on Synodality, therefore, will be fascinating to track. https://cruxnow.com/news-analysis/2023/02/as-synodality-summit-looms-navigating-a-papacys-imperial-phase__________________________________________________________ 4. Why You Can’t Predict the Future of Religion, By Ross Douthat, The New York Times, February 25, 2023, Opinion In an 1822 letter to the physician Benjamin Waterhouse, Thomas Jefferson expressed his confidence that traditional Christianity in the young United States was giving way to a more enlightened faith, much like Jefferson’s own in its rejection of the divinity of Jesus Christ. “I trust,” he wrote, “that there is not a young man now living in the U.S. who will not die an Unitarian.” Less than a year earlier, on “a Sabbath evening in the autumn of 1821” in upstate New York, a young man named Charles Grandison Finney began a multiday interplay of prayer and mystical experience that ‌‌led to a moment when, he wrote later, “it seemed as if I met the Lord Jesus Christ face to face … He stood before me, and I fell down at his feet and poured out my soul to Him. I wept aloud like a child, and made such confessions as I could with my choked utterance.” This experience set Finney on a path that would help bury Jefferson’s confident hypothesis — toward leadership in an age of revivalism, the Second Great Awakening, that forged the form of evangelical Christianity that would bestride 19th-century America and also encouraged a proliferation of novel sects with supernatural beliefs entirely distant from Jefferson’s Enlightenment religion. That history is worth mentioning for a specific reason and a general one. The specific reason is that a Christian college in rural Kentucky, Asbury University, has just experienced an old-school revival — a multiweek outpouring that has kept students praying and singing in the school chapel from morning to night, drawn ten of thousands of pilgrims from around the country, captured the imagination of the internet and even drawn the attention of The New York Times. The general reason is that whatever the Asbury Revival’s long-term impact, the history of Finney and Jefferson is a reminder that religious history is shaped as much by sudden irruptions as long trajectories, as much by the mystical and personal as by the institutional and sociological.  If you’re trying to discern what a post-Christian spirituality might become, then what post-Christian seekers are experiencing and what (or whom) they claim to be encountering matters as much as any specific religious label they might claim. And if you’re imagining a renewal for American Christianity, all the best laid plans — the pastoral strategies, theological debates and long-term trendlines — may matter less than something happening in some obscure place or to some obscure individual, in whose visions an entirely unexpected future might be taking shape.  https://www.nytimes.com/2023/02/25/opinion/religious-revival-christianity-asbury-kentucky.html__________________________________________________________ 5. States Sue FDA Over Abortion Pill Rules, By Talal Ansari, The Wall Street Journal, February 25, 2023, Pg. A16 A dozen states are suing the Food and Drug Administration over what they say are unnecessary regulations on the abortion pill mifepristone.  The lawsuit was filed Friday in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Washington by the Democratic attorneys general of Washington, Oregon, Nevada, Delaware, Arizona, Illinois, Connecticut, Colorado, Vermont, New Mexico, Michigan and Rhode Island.  It alleges that federal regulations on mifepristone are “excessively burdensome…despite ample evidence that the drug is safer than Tylenol.”  Medication abortions accounted for 54% of abortions in the U.S. in 2020, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research group that supports abortion rights and tracks national and state statistics. In Washington state, almost 60% of abortions are medication abortions, according to the state’s attorney general.  https://www.wsj.com/articles/states-sue-fda-over-access-to-abortion-pill-f9f6b691__________________________________________________________ 6. The Texas judge who could take down the abortion pill, A devout Christian, Matthew Kacsmaryk has been shaped by his deep antiabortion beliefs, By Caroline Kitchener and Ann E. Marimow, The Washington Post, February 25, 2023, 6:00 AM Matthew Kacsmaryk was a 22-year-old law student when he drove to a small city in west Texas to spend a day with a baby he would probably never see again. He was in Abilene to support his sister, who, pregnant at 17, had fled to a faraway maternity home to avoid the scorn she feared from their Christian community. But holding his nephew in his arms — then leaving the baby with adoptive parents — also solidified Kacsmaryk’s belief that every pregnancy should be treasured, his sister recalled, even those that don’t fit neatly into a family’s future plans. Almost sixteen years later, in 2016, Kacsmaryk drove back to Abilene for his first meeting as a board member of Christian Homes and Family Services, the organization that had taken in his sister when she chose adoption over abortion. “He’s very passionate about the fact that you can’t preach pro-life and do nothing,” said Kacsmaryk’s sister, Jennifer Griffith. “We both hold the stance of you have to do something. You can’t not.” Now 45 and a federal judge, Kacsmaryk (kaz-MARE-ik) has the opportunity to impose the most far-reaching limit on abortion access since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June. The judge, nominated by President Trump and confirmed in 2019, will soon rule on a lawsuit seeking to revoke U.S. government approval of mifepristone, a key abortion medication. That outcome could, at least temporarily, halt over half the legal abortions carried out across the country, including in states led by Democrats where abortion rights are protected. While many experts have said the case relies on baseless medical claims, it is Kacsmaryk’s role as presiding judge that has the abortion rights movement bracing for another crippling defeat.  The Washington Post interviewed 20 people who know Kacsmaryk — who declined to comment for this story — including his close friends, former colleagues and family members. What emerges is a portrait of a religious conservative who is widely regarded as a thorough and analytical legal thinker but who also comes to his judicial work with a long history of activism rooted in his religious beliefs. This account includes previously unreported details about the nature and strength of his antiabortion convictions. https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2023/02/25/texas-judge-abortion-pill-decision/__________________________________________________________ 7. Pope doubles down on need for financial trials in Vatican, By Nicole Winfield, Associated Press, February 25, 2023 Pope Francis said Saturday that financial misconduct by Vatican personnel harms the church’s mission and scandalizes the faithful, doubling down on the need for trials in the tiny city state to find justice. Francis made the comments during an address to prosecutors, judges and employees of the Vatican City State’s civil and criminal tribunal at the start of the judicial year. The tribunal has seen its caseload grow significantly in recent years as the Vatican enforces new financial standards and accountability, most recently with an ongoing trial into the Holy See’s investment in a London property. Defense lawyers for some of the 10 defendants have flagged shortcomings in the Vatican’s unique legal system over the course of the trial, arguing that the rights of the defense haven’t been respected. Francis didn’t refer to the London case specifically, but he warned against focusing on the nitty-gritty of the Vatican’s legal system given the “seriousness of the conduct at issue.” https://apnews.com/article/legal-proceedings-vatican-city-business-religion-786d1f2c0ef85fb0adfdcd47817f1cef__________________________________________________________ 8. Scottish Catholic Church warns against anti-Christian bias in public life, By Charles Collins, Crux, February 25, 2023 Scotland runs the risk of denying public service to people with “talent and ability” if people with strong Christian convictions are kept from public office, according to the spokesperson for the country’s Catholic Church. Scottish Finance Secretary Kate Forbes is running to replace Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, who announced she was resigning on Feb. 15. However, Forbes – a member of the Free Church of Scotland – has come under fire for her personal belief in traditional marriage norms, including saying having children outside of marriage “would be wrong according to my faith.”  In an interview with The Herald, Catholic Church spokesperson Peter Kearney claimed that in Scotland’s “pursuit of diversity we have embraced conformity.” “There is absolutely an intolerance of certain types of difference. We are less tolerant of people’s religious orientations. Some of the things that have been said about religious opinions leave a lot of Catholics and a lot of Christians feeling marginalized,” he told the Scottish daily publication. https://cruxnow.com/church-in-uk-and-ireland/2023/02/scottish-catholic-church-warns-against-anti-christian-bias-in-public-life__________________________________________________________ 9. Redacted report on Baltimore church sex abuse to be released, By Lea Skene, Associated Press, February 24, 2023, 2:01 PM A judge on Friday ordered the release of a redacted version of an investigative report detailing sex abuse allegations against more than 150 Roman Catholic priests in the Archdiocese of Baltimore and examining the institution’s response. Completed last year by the Maryland Attorney General’s Office, the report has not yet been made public because it contains information obtained from church officials via grand jury subpoenas, and such proceedings are confidential in Maryland. But lawyers for the state asked the court for permission to release their findings, and Baltimore Circuit Court Judge Robert Taylor issued his ruling Friday calling for a redacted version to be released in the coming weeks or months. Taylor said he will consider whether the redacted parts should also be released later. https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/redacted-report-on-baltimore-church-sex-abuse-to-be-released/2023/02/24/b07fe5d0-b475-11ed-94a0-512954d75716_story.html__________________________________________________________ 10. West Virginians clash over religious freedom bill at hearing, By Leah Willingham, Associated Press, February 24, 2023, 7:31 PM Some people said West Virginia needs a law to codify the right of residents to challenge government regulations that interfere with their religious beliefs because of growing threats to their constitutional freedoms.  The bill, which passed the House Judiciary Committee earlier this week and is now before the full House of Delegates, would require a government entity to have a compelling reason to burden someone’s constitutional right to freedom of religion and to meet its goals in the least restrictive way possible.  At least 23 other states have religious freedom restoration acts. The laws are similar to the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act, signed in 1993 by President Bill Clinton, which allows federal regulations that interfere with religious beliefs to be challenged. https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/west-virginians-clash-over-religious-freedom-bill-at-hearing/2023/02/24/701d0d92-b4a2-11ed-94a0-512954d75716_story.html__________________________________________________________ 11. Bishops’ leader on migration blasts new crackdown on border crossings, By John Lavenburg, Crux, February 24, 2023 After the Biden administration announced its toughest crackdown on border crossings to date, the U.S. bishops’ top voice on migration has charged that the proposed rule will further limit asylum for those most in need, and expose them to greater danger. The proposed rule, announced Feb. 23 by the Homeland Security and Justice Departments, presumes that immigrants are ineligible for asylum if they enter the country unlawfully. It would allow for rapid deportation of any immigrants who fail to utilize a legal pathway to enter the U.S., or who don’t seek asylum or other protection in a country through which they traveled. The proposed rule is open for public comment through March 27. It’s slated to go into effect when Title 42 – a controversial Trump-era measure allowing the immediate expulsion of immigrants that’s also been utilized by the Biden administration – is lifted in May. The policy is set to be in place for two years. Bishop Mark Seitz, the USCCB Migration Chair, said that the nation’s bishops are “deeply troubled” by the proposal, “which perpetuates the misguided notion that heavy-handed enforcement measures are a viable solution to increased migration and forced displacement.” https://cruxnow.com/church-in-the-usa/2023/02/bishops-leader-on-migration-blasts-new-crackdown-on-border-crossings__________________________________________________________ 12. Bishop Paprocki: Local Latin Mass goers are ‘faithful Catholics’, By Tyler Arnold, Catholic News Agency, February 23, 2023, 2:00 PM As the Vatican begins to crack down on bishops who issued dispensations for parishes that offer the Traditional Latin Mass, at least one bishop is defending the Latin Mass community within his diocese and urging a more localized approach. Bishop Thomas Paprocki of the Diocese of Springfield, Illinois, told CNA that the Latin Mass community in his diocese has been faithful to the Church and that bishops should be given the authority to allow these faithful Masses to continue. “I think the local diocesan bishops are much more in tune with what’s going on in their diocese than an office in Rome,” Bishop Paprocki said. https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/253737/bishop-paprocki-local-latin-mass-goers-are-faithful-catholics__________________________________________________________

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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