1. A profile of the next Pope, writes Cardinal, Two years after the text signed ‘Demos’ (later revealed to have been written by Cardinal Pell) a new anonymous document, linked to the first, defines the seven priorities of the next Conclave to repair the confusion and crisis created by this Pontificate., By Demos II, Daily Compass, February 29, 2024, Opinion The Daily Compass is publishing an exclusive document in six languages, intended to circulate among cardinals in view of the forthcoming conclave and among the faithful as food for thought on the priorities of the Church. The text was written principally by a cardinal after he collated the suggestions of other cardinals and bishops. They have chosen to remain anonymous for the reasons explained in the letter. In March 2022, an anonymous text appeared – signed “Demos” and titled the “The Vatican Today” – that raised a number of serious questions and criticisms regarding the pontificate of Pope Francis. Conditions in the Church since that text appeared have not materially changed, much less improved. Thus, the thoughts offered here are intended to build on those original reflections in light of the needs of the Vatican tomorrow. The concluding years of a pontificate, any pontificate, are a time to assess the condition of the Church in the present, and the needs of the Church and her faithful going forward. It is clear that the strength of Pope Francis’ pontificate is the added emphasis he has given to compassion toward the weak, outreach to the poor and marginalized, concern for the dignity of creation and the environmental issues that flow from it, and efforts to accompany the suffering and alienated in their burdens. Its shortcomings are equally obvious: an autocratic, at times seemingly vindictive, style of governance; a carelessness in matters of law; an intolerance for even respectful disagreement; and – most seriously – a pattern of ambiguity in matters of faith and morals causing confusion among the faithful. Confusion breeds division and conflict. It undermines confidence in the Word of God. It weakens evangelical witness. And the result today is a Church more fractured than at any time in her recent history. The task of the next pontificate must therefore be one of recovery and reestablishment of truths that have been slowly obscured or lost among many Christians. These include but are not limited to such basics as the following:  (a) no one is saved except through, and only through, Jesus Christ, as he himself made clear; (b) God is merciful but also just, and is intimately concerned with every human life, He forgives but He also holds us accountable, He is both Savior and Judge; (c) man is God’s creature, not a self-invention, a creature not merely of emotion and appetites but also of intellect, free will, and an eternal destiny; (d) unchanging objective truths about the world and human nature exist and are knowable through Divine Revelation and the exercise of reason; (e) God’s Word, recorded in Scripture, is reliable and has permanent force; (f) sin is real and its effects are lethal; and (g) his Church has both the authority and the duty to “make disciples of all nations.” The failure to joyfully embrace that work of missionary, salvific love has consequences. As Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 9:16, “woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel.” Some practical observations flow from the task and list above. First: Real authority is damaged by authoritarian means in its exercise.  Second: Just as the Church is not an autocracy, neither is she a democracy.  Third: Ambiguity is neither evangelical nor welcoming.  Fourth: The Catholic Church, in addition to Word, sacrament, and creed, is also a community of law.  Fifth: The Church, as John XXIII so beautifully described her, is mater et magistra.  Sixth: Global travel served a pastor like Pope John Paul II so well because of his unique personal gifts and the nature of the times.  Seventh and finally: The College of Cardinals exists to provide senior counsel to the Pope and to elect his successor upon his death.  https://newdailycompass.com/en/a-profile-of-the-next-pope-writes-cardinal__________________________________________________________ 2. Let’s Thank the Alabama Supreme Court, By Linda Greenhouse, The New York Times, February 29, 2024, 5:05 PM, Opinion I never thought I’d be grateful to the Alabama Supreme Court for anything, but now I am. With its decision deeming frozen embryos to be children under state law, that all-Republican court has done the impossible. It has awakened the American public, finally, to the peril of the theocratic future toward which the country has been hurtling. The U.S. Supreme Court’s June 2022 decision that erased the constitutional right to abortion was an alert, too, of course, leaving Republicans scrambling to distance themselves from the fruits of the court they had populated with such glee only a few years earlier. The fact that religious doctrine lay at the heart of Justice Samuel Alito’s majority opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization was perfectly clear, as I observed then. Dobbs is usually discussed today as a conservative power play, however, rather than as a projection of a religious view of fetal life onto both a largely unwilling public and the Constitution itself. But there’s no avoiding the theological basis of the Alabama court’s solicitude for “extrauterine children,” to use the majority opinion’s phrase. In a concurring opinion in which he referred to embryos as “little people,” Tom Parker, Alabama’s chief justice, rested his analysis on what’s become known as the Sanctity of Unborn Life Amendment that Alabama voters added to the state’s constitution in 2018. “It is as if the people of Alabama took what was spoken of the prophet Jeremiah and applied it to every unborn person in this state: ‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew you. Before you were born I sanctified you,’” the chief justice wrote.  But should it really have been such a surprise? The country is awash in religiosity when it comes to human reproduction. More than 120 Republican members of the House of Representatives have signed on as co-sponsors of the Life at Conception Act. Among them is their leader, Speaker Mike Johnson, an evangelical Christian who has called abortion “an American holocaust.” The bill provides that “The terms ‘human person’ and ‘human being’ include each and every member of the species homo sapiens at all stages of life, including the moment of fertilization, cloning or other moment at which an individual member of the human species comes into being.”  A startling example of religion infiltrating the engines of government is playing out in Idaho. The state’s attorney general, Raúl Labrador, has brought on the group Alliance Defending Freedom, a prominent Christian legal organization, to help argue Idaho’s Supreme Court challenge to a Biden administration policy that requires hospitals to provide abortion if necessary when a woman arrives in the emergency room in a pregnancy-induced medical crisis. The federal law, the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act, requires hospitals to provide either “necessary stabilizing treatment” for any emergency room patient or a transfer to another hospital, while Idaho’s abortion law permits terminating a pregnancy only in cases of rape and incest and to prevent “death.” In making its argument, Idaho argues in its brief to the court that it has a record of “150 years of protecting life” and that the federal medical treatment law “does not require emergency rooms to become abortion enclaves in violation of state law.” The case is set for argument in April.  Rhetoric about the “sanctity of unborn life,” in the words of Alabama’s constitution, has for too long been cost-free, a politician’s cheap thrill. Now we see that, taken to extremes in the hands of the ideologues our current political culture nurtures, it has a price, one that society now seems reluctant to pay. For that realization, we can, as I said earlier, thank the Alabama Supreme Court. https://www.nytimes.com/2024/02/29/opinion/alabama-abortion-ivf.html__________________________________________________________ 3. Missouri lawmakers try again to block Medicaid money from going to Planned Parenthood, By Summer Ballentine, Associated Press, February 28, 2024, 6:46 AM Missouri’s Republican lawmakers are once again trying to block federal health care dollars from going to the state’s Planned Parenthood clinics, this time weeks after the Missouri Supreme Court thwarted a previous attempt to end that funding. The Republican-led House on Wednesday gave initial approval to a bill that would bar Medicaid funding from going to Planned Parenthood, which is already banned by state law from providing abortions in almost all circumstances. Republican lawmakers argued that no public funding should go to the organization, which offers abortions in other states. “When you do business with an entity like a Planned Parenthood, you’re ultimately subsidizing those abortion services, even if they are in other states,” bill sponsor Rep. Cody Smith said during Wednesday floor debate.  https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/2024/02/28/missouri-medicaid-planned-parenthood-abortion/e57a305c-d66a-11ee-82ad-c2391b06a8f5_story.html__________________________________________________________ 4. Republicans block Senate bill to protect nationwide access to IVF treatments, By Mary Clare Jalonick and Stephen Groves, Associated Press, February 28, 2024, 6:15 PM Senate Republicans have blocked legislation that would protect access to in vitro fertilization, objecting to a vote on the issue Wednesday even after widespread backlash to a recent ruling by the Alabama Supreme Court that threatens the practice. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, a Mississippi Republican, objected to a request for a vote by Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., who used IVF treatments to have her two children after struggling with years of infertility. Duckworth’s bill would establish a federal right to the treatments as the Alabama ruling has upended fertility care in the state and families who had already started the process face heartbreak and uncertainty.  https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2024/02/28/congress-ivf-access-abortion-alabama-bill-ruling/613b6400-d688-11ee-82ad-c2391b06a8f5_story.html__________________________________________________________ 5. What is the Catholic Church’s position on IVF?, By Peter Pinedo, Catholic News Agency, February 28, 2024, 6:13 PM  IVF is a medical procedure that fuses sperm and egg in a lab environment to conceive a child outside of the sexual act. The live embryo is then later implanted into a uterus to continue developing until birth.   Is the Catholic Church against IVF?  Yes. While the Church encourages certain fertility treatments for couples struggling to have children, the use of IVF is contrary to Catholic teachings. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (Paragraph 2377) states that IVF is “morally unacceptable” because it separates the marriage act from procreation and establishes “the domination of technology” over human life.  According to Joseph Meaney, president of the National Catholic Bioethics Center, the 1987 Vatican document Donum Vitae established the moral framework for Catholics with regard to IVF. Donum Vitae said that “the gift of human life must be actualized in marriage through the specific and exclusive acts of husband and wife, in accordance with the laws inscribed in their persons and in their union.”  This teaching, Meaney told CNA, laid out a “fundamental distinction” between treatments meant to assist the marital act in conceiving a child versus treatments that replace the marital act.   Donum Vitae compares IVF to abortion, saying that “through these procedures, with apparently contrary purposes, life and death are subjected to the decision of man, who thus sets himself up as the giver of life and death by decree.” Meaney explained that in IVF “there’s an objectification of the child because essentially they’re producing children almost on an industrial scale.” “It’s treating the human person not as a gift, but rather as an object to be created and that can be subjected to quality control and discarded.”  https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/256946/what-is-the-catholic-church-s-position-on-ivf__________________________________________________________ 6. How the Alabama In Vitro Fertilization Case Exposes the Wild West of Assisted Reproductive Technologies, If nothing else results, the facts of the case give an indication of the present state of lawlessness within the $8-billion child-manufacturing industry., By Father Roger Landry, National Catholic Register, February 28, 2024, Opinion The Feb. 16 ruling by the Supreme Court of Alabama, which by an 8-1 margin determined that cryogenically frozen human embryos are considered unborn children under Alabama law, has brought a long-awaited spotlight on the practices, lack of regulation and dearth of ethics in the in vitro fertilization (IVF) and assisted reproductive technology (ART) industries.  The decision on the consolidated appeal by three families — the official title of which is an unwieldy 98 words — against the Center for Reproductive Medicine and Mobile Infirmary Medical Center allows their lawsuit to go forward. They are suing for punitive damages under Alabama’s Wrong Death of a Minor Act against the accidental destruction of their frozen embryonic children conceived in vitro. The ruling brought immediate disruption to the IVF and ART industries in Alabama and raised numerous legal concerns as to whether the businesses and families that decide to destroy or discard human embryos may be liable to punitive damages. Considering the enormous scope of the industries, which bring in $8 billion annually across the country and lead to the manufacture of nearly 100,000 children a year — about 1 of every 40 children — the ruling was a legal earthquake with national reverberations. Political reactions were swift. Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall said that he would not prosecute IVF providers or families. Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey and the leaders of the state Legislature announced efforts to pass legislation to protect the IVF and ART industries. National political leaders from both parties decried the decision and postured their support for IVF in terms of promoting families and children. But even if the legal impact of the decision may be short-lived, it is the first time that many politicians and citizens are becoming aware of the details of the fertility industrial complex, and it’s hard to imagine that, once laws start to be made concerning IVF and ART industries, the laws will be worse than the present situation of no regulation that many from right and left have compared to a lawless “wild west.” The facts of the case give some indication of that present state of lawlessness. Three couples, after going through IVF cycles, decided to freeze their unimplanted embryonic sons and daughters. In December 2020, a hospital patient was able to wander unsupervised into the obviously unprotected and unmonitored cryogenic nursery where their frozen children and thousands of others were stored. The patient out of curiosity reached in to remove several embryos, received immediate freezer burns and dropped the embryos, destroying them. Three sets of parents sued the institutions. In the trial court, the suit was dismissed because the judge essentially said that the embryos were considered — legally — “property,” not persons, and therefore couldn’t be subject to a wrongful-death claim. The Supreme Court, based on the Alabama Wrongful Death of a Minor Act as well as an Alabama constitutional amendment that protects the “sanctity of unborn life and the rights of unborn children,” overturned the trial judge’s determination and allowed the case to go to trial. That so little care was taken to guard the frozen human embryos — such that an eccentric patient in the hospital where the embryonic nursery is located could simply take embryos — is a shocking enough sign of the state of regulation in the IVF and ART industry. That parents, whom the present state of the law allows the “right” to conceive a child by non-natural means and gives total discretion to implant, freeze or discard them, as if they were just property, would sue under a wrongful-death statute — treating their children as, in fact, children — manifests the legal and ethical confusions involved.   Since 1978, when the first IVF child, Louise Brown, was born, the Catholic Church has been very clear about the many ethical issues that need to be taken into account. While the Church affirms the humanity of every baby, however conceived, praises the desire for parents to have children, and compassionately recognizes the enormous suffering involved for parents struggling with infertility, the Church stresses that children are always a divine gift, not a right to whom parents are entitled. The Church has been a voice crying out in the desert about these moral issues, which have become clearer over time. In IVF, children are not begotten but manufactured.  The Alabama Supreme Court decision, no matter its long-term legal impact, has begun a long-overdue conversation. Catholics need to have the courage to speak about it: first internally, since many Catholics, too, have had recourse to IVF and ART either in ignorance or defiance of moral teaching; and then globally, so that, as disciples of the One who said whatever we do to the least of his brothers and sisters we do to him, we may evangelize the wild west with the gospel of life. Father Roger Landry, Catholic chaplain at Columbia University, is ecclesiastical assistant to Aid to the Church in Need USA. Father Landry, a priest of the Diocese of Fall River, Massachusetts, has been appointed by the U.S. bishops a “National Eucharistic Preacher.” https://www.ncregister.com/commentaries/alabama-ivf-wild-west-of-art__________________________________________________________

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.