1. Americans of faith feel less accepted by society, new survey finds, By Peter Pinedo, Catholic News Agency, January 16, 2024, 9:00 AM Religious Americans feel their faith is less accepted by society than in previous years, a new survey by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty found. According to Becket, “the greatest change in perceived feelings of acceptance is among Christians.” However, consistent with previous years’ studies, religious non-Christians report significantly lower levels of perceived acceptance, 8% lower than people of faith as a whole and 12% lower than non-Catholic Christians. Only half of people of faith in the U.S. feel their faith is “completely” accepted or accepted “a good amount,” according to Becket’s new 2023 Religious Freedom Index, which was shared exclusively with CNA. Becket released its full index, which tracks American public opinion on First Amendment rights, on Jan. 16. The new number denotes a 5% decline in religious Americans’ feelings of acceptance from Becket’s 2022 findings. Overall, only 21% of all people of faith in America said that they felt their faith was “completely” accepted, while 16% said they felt their faith was only accepted “a small amount” or “not at all.”  https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/256531/americans-of-faith-feel-less-accepted-by-society-new-survey-finds__________________________________________________________ 2. Religious Freedom Is under Attack, By Andrea Picciotti-Bayer, National Review, January 16, 2024, 6:30 AM, Opinion Not even the home is free from the assault on religious conviction. Families of faith in Oregon will be denied the chance to foster or adopt children based on their objections to the demands of gender ideology in the absence of judicial intervention. And the Biden administration — which it’s now clear is pathetically subservient to that ideology — has proposed new rules that define “a safe and appropriate” placement for children in need of foster care as one that will “affirm” a child’s gender identity, categorically excluding many religious Americans from fostering children who struggle with gender dysphoria. It’s only a matter of time before these perverse standards are imposed on all parents. On National Religious Freedom Day, we can look to courageous Americans who have stood up for their faith and freedom for inspiration to stay the course in the midst of the growing persecution facing religious Americans.  Our robust defense of religious freedom — whether here at home or abroad — goes to the heart of what it means to be human. Many people of faith are facing unimaginable persecution in countries such as NigeriaNicaragua, and China, and our moral obligation is to defend the right to believe for everyone, everywhere. https://www.nationalreview.com/2024/01/religious-freedom-is-under-attack/__________________________________________________________ 3. Nicaraguan Bishop Rolando Álvarez and 18 priests arrive in Rome from prison, guests of Vatican, By Associated Press, Associated Press, January 15, 2024, 4:22 AM Nicaragua’s government released a prominent Catholic bishop and 18 other clergy members imprisoned in a crackdown by President Daniel Ortega and handed them over to Vatican authorities who welcomed them in Rome. Bishop Rolando Álvarez and the other clergy were jailed more than a year ago, in most cases, as part of a crackdown on the opposition and Catholic church by Ortega. He had accused them of supporting massive 2018 civic protests that he claimed were a plot to overthrow him. The government said in a press statement the releases on Sunday were part of negotiations with the Vatican aimed at “making possible their trip to the Vatican.” In the past, imprisoned priests have been quickly flown to Rome. Vatican News, the Vatican’s in-house media operation, said the group arrived in Rome on Sunday afternoon and were welcomed as “guests of the Holy See.”  https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2024/01/14/nicaragua-ortega-imprisoned-priests-released/f994bbcc-b322-11ee-b285-0853d4d1b92f_story.html__________________________________________________________ 4. Pope acknowledges resistance to same-sex blessings but doubles down: ‘The Lord blesses everyone’, By Associated Press, January 15, 2024, 7:22 AM Pope Francis has defended his controversial decision to let priests bless same-sex couples but admitted that “solitude is a price you have to pay” when you make difficult decisions. Francis doubled down and insisted that the “Lord blesses everyone,” during a Sunday interview with an Italian talk show. But he acknowledged the remarkable opposition his decision has sparked — Africa’s bishops have united in a continent-wide refusal to implement the Vatican declaration and individual bishops in Eastern Europe, Latin America and elsewhere have also voiced opposition. Vatican’s Dec. 18 declaration restated traditional church teaching that marriage is a lifelong union between a man and woman. But it allowed priests to offer spontaneous, non-liturgical blessings to same-sex couples seeking God’s grace in their lives, provided such blessings aren’t confused with the rites and rituals of a wedding.  https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/2024/01/15/vatican-pope-samesex-blessings/bc900910-b3a0-11ee-b285-0853d4d1b92f_story.html__________________________________________________________ 5. Pope in new interview talks health, resignation, future travel plans, By Elise Ann Allen, Crux, January 15, 2024 In a new interview, Pope Francis said he is in good health and denied any plans to resign, saying he has several foreign trips planned for this year, including a summer stop in Polynesia and a potential return trip to Argentina. Speaking of his health, Francis in the interview jested that “I’m still alive” despite several health challenges last year, including two hospital stays and a recent bout of bronchitis that forced him to cancel a planned trip to Dubai in early December for the COP28 United Nations climate summit. Asked whether he was considering resignation, the pope said, “it’s neither a thought nor a concern nor even a desire.” “It’s a possibility open to all popes, but for the moment, it’s not at the center of my thoughts, worries and feelings,” he said, adding, “as long as I have the ability to serve, I go forward; when I can’t take it anymore, it will be time to think about it.”  In the roughly 50-minute interview, Francis touched on a variety of issues in addition to his health, including war, migration, future travel plans, and the recent controversy over his decision to allow non-liturgical blessings for same-sex couples.  https://cruxnow.com/vatican/2024/01/pope-in-new-interview-talks-health-resignation-future-travel-plans__________________________________________________________ 6. New poll finds Pope’s unfavorable rating among Americans at all-time high, By John Lavenburg, Crux, January 13, 2024 A new survey conducted this past December has found that while most American adults still have a favorable view of Pope Francis, the percentage that hold an unfavorable opinion of the pontiff has risen to a new ten-year high. The survey, conducted Dec. 1-20 by the Gallup organization, found that 58 percent of American adults overall have a favorable opinion of Francis, the same as when he became pope in 2013. However, over the same period, the percentage of American adults who have an unfavorable opinion of Francis has risen from 10 percent to a new high of 30 percent.   The percentage of American adults who have not heard of, or hold no opinion of, the pontiff has also dropped from 31 percent in 2013 to 11 percent in the latest survey, the data shows. The survey data shows a similar trend among American Catholics as among American adults generally, in the sense of a rising level of unfavorable opinion. Perhaps unsurprisingly, given a polarized political environment in both Church and state, Francis’s favorability amongst self-described liberal American Catholics has increased since 2013, while his favorability among conservative American Catholics has declined.  https://cruxnow.com/church-in-the-usa/2024/01/new-poll-finds-popes-unfavorable-rating-among-americans-at-all-time-high__________________________________________________________ 7. Pope says he hopes to keep promise to visit native Argentina for first time since becoming pontiff, By Associated Press, January 14, 2024, 7:58 PM  Pope Francis said Sunday that if he can, he’ll visit his native Argentina in the latter part of 2024, a trip that would see him there for the first time in his nearly 11-year-old papacy and while his fellow Argentines are suffering economically. Francis hasn’t been back to his homeland since he was elected pope in 2013. In an interview with the host of a talk show on a private Italian TV channel, Francis said he is worrying about Argentina’s people because “they are suffering much,” an apparent reference to the ravaged economy in that country. From his residence at the Vatican, Francis, 87, told the interviewer on the show “Che Tempo Che Fa” that he plans to visit Polynesia in August and that an Argentine trip would come sometime after that this year. Late last year, Francis said Argentina’s new president, Javier Milei, had invited him.  https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/2024/01/14/pope-francis-argentina-milei/7008e640-b326-11ee-b285-0853d4d1b92f_story.html__________________________________________________________ 8. Republicans try to block Biden administration plan to cut money for anti-abortion counseling centers, By Amanda Seitz, Associated Press, January 13, 2024, 12:03 PM In a new twist to the fight over abortion access, congressional Republicans are trying to block a Biden administration spending rule that they say will cut off millions of dollars to anti-abortion counseling centers. The rule would prohibit states from sending federal funds earmarked for needy Americans to so-called “crisis pregnancy centers,” which counsel against abortions. At stake are millions of dollars in federal funds that currently flow to the organizations through the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, a block grant program created in 1996 to give cash assistance to poor children and prevent out-of-wedlock pregnancies.  More than 7,000 comments have been submitted on the proposed rule, which includes a series of restrictions on how states would be able to spend TANF dollars. The proposal limiting funds for anti-abortion counseling centers is the Biden administration’s latest attempt to introduce federal policies that expand abortion access. Conservative states, meanwhile, have severely restricted the care since the U.S. Supreme Court stripped women of their federal right to an abortion in 2022.  https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2024/01/13/antiabortion-counseling-centers-biden-republicans-federal-funds/1c68b332-b1d5-11ee-9a32-5c9e6aa28b3b_story.html__________________________________________________________ 9. Cardinal Parolin: Fiducia Supplicans has ‘touched a very sensitive point’, By Matthew Santucci, Catholic News Agency, January 13, 2024, 10:15 AM Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican’s secretary of state, has commented on the divided reaction to the Fiducia Supplicans document amid a great backlash from episcopal conferences. “This document has aroused very strong reactions; this means that a very delicate, very sensitive point has been touched; it will take further investigation,” Parolin said on Friday, Jan. 12, during a conference held at the Accademia dei Lincei in Rome. The cardinal went on to say that “if these ferments serve to walk according to the Gospel to give answers to today, these ferments are also welcome,” while reiterating that “the Church is open and attentive to the signs of the times but must be faithful to the Gospel.” When asked in a follow-up question by an Italian journalist if the document was a mistake, the Vatican’s top diplomat responded curtly: “I do not enter into these considerations; the reactions tell us that it has touched a very sensitive point.”  https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/256536/cardinal-parolin-fiducia-supplican-has-touched-a-very-sensitive-point__________________________________________________________ 10. New poll finds Pope’s unfavorable rating among Americans at all-time high, By John Lavenburg, Crux, January 13, 2024 A new survey conducted this past December has found that while most American adults still have a favorable view of Pope Francis, the percentage that hold an unfavorable opinion of the pontiff has risen to a new ten-year high. The survey, conducted Dec. 1-20 by the Gallup organization, found that 58 percent of American adults overall have a favorable opinion of Francis, the same as when he became pope in 2013. However, over the same period, the percentage of American adults who have an unfavorable opinion of Francis has risen from 10 percent to a new high of 30 percent.   The percentage of American adults who have not heard of, or hold no opinion of, the pontiff has also dropped from 31 percent in 2013 to 11 percent in the latest survey, the data shows. The survey data shows a similar trend among American Catholics as among American adults generally, in the sense of a rising level of unfavorable opinion. Perhaps unsurprisingly, given a polarized political environment in both Church and state, Francis’s favorability amongst self-described liberal American Catholics has increased since 2013, while his favorability among conservative American Catholics has declined.  https://cruxnow.com/church-in-the-usa/2024/01/new-poll-finds-popes-unfavorable-rating-among-americans-at-all-time-high__________________________________________________________ 11. Jimmy Lai’s Offense: Tweets and Op-eds, The publisher is basically on trial for committing journalism., By The Wall Street Journal, January 12, 2024, 6:30 AM, Editorial One month into Jimmy Lai’s trial, and the national security case against him boils down to this: The publisher posted tweets, supported local democrats and was in touch with human-rights leaders and former U.S. officials who shared his concerns that Hong Kong’s freedoms were being eroded. That’s it. When a man is facing lifetime imprisonment for threatening national security, you’d expect him to be accused of selling state secrets or plotting to assassinate someone. Instead Hong Kong has criminalized Mr. Lai’s calls to uphold freedom and the rule of law. He also urged the U.S. to use diplomatic pressure on China, including sanctions. None of these are secret conspiracies: Almost all of what Mr. Lai advocated was in public.  The U.K and U.S. have substantial investment in Hong Kong, though many American companies have been heading for the exits. As Mr. Lai pointed out in an article that ran in the Journal at the height of the protests, what unites America and Hong Kong is not just dollars and cents but shared values. “The American flags you can see at our rallies,” he said, “are our way of saying that we share your values and we look to you for hope.” Hong Kong officials and their Beijing minders have put forward a case against Mr. Lai without credible evidence, and the whole world can see it.   https://www.wsj.com/articles/jimmy-lai-trial-hong-kong-china-journalism-463a045e__________________________________________________________ 12. U.S. and Mexican bishops present proposals to help migrants, By Diego López Colín, Catholic News Agency, January 12, 2024, 5:45 PM The Catholic bishops of the Mexico-Texas border region issued a joint call Jan. 10 urging the governments of both countries to implement concrete actions to improve the situation of migrants and their families. The 11-page document provides background on the drama of immigration, the biblical basis for welcoming migrants, and public policy recommendations. In their joint statement, the prelates proposed a series of measures, including “increasing and simplifying the granting of visas and adopting private and community sponsorship programs.” They also encouraged “opening safe and legal humanitarian corridors for the most vulnerable migrants and refugees.” The bishops also asked the authorities to “offer adequate and decent accommodation” for people in transit in either country. For minors, they called for “regular access to education and provision of temporary custody or foster care programs.”  https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/256527/us-and-mexican-bishops-present-proposals-to-help-migrants__________________________________________________________ 13. Pope’s “Common Dreams” With Marxists Denies Persecution Nightmare, By Rod Dreher, The European Conservative, January 11, 2024, Opinion In a Vatican reception on Wednesday, Pope Francis encouraged a Marxist-Christian dialogue group, urging them to keep “dreaming of a better world” and to have “the courage to step outside the box” to create “new paths” for humanity through collaboration.  Anybody even passingly familiar with the bloody persecution of Catholics and other Christians by communist governments to be anything but disgusted by Pope Francis’s words. This is personal for me. In 2020, I published Live Not By Lies, a book about the lessons we must learn from the communist persecution of Christians in the Soviet empire.It is impossible to know for sure how many of the tens of millions of those murdered in the Soviet Union were killed primarily because they were Christian. But we do know from government documents that in the Stalinist purges of 1937-38 alone, 106,000 Orthodox priests were slaughtered. Throughout the Bolshevik reign of terror, all Christians—Orthodox, Catholic, and Protestant—under Soviet authority were viciously persecuted, with their churches often destroyed or turned into barns and storage facilities. This continued until the very end. One of the last Christian prisoners of conscience in the Soviet Union, Alexander Ogorodnikov, was not set free until 1987. When I met him in Moscow in 2019, Ogorodnikov told me a story about a sobbing elderly guard who begged him for help from the other side of the cell. The jailer was still haunted by the memories of something he witnessed in a forest clearing in the 1950s, as he guarded the perimeter. The jailer said that KGB agents organized “twenty or thirty” Orthodox priests in two rows, facing the same way. One of the KGB agents walked up to the first priest in one row. “Is there a God?” asked the KGB man. Yes, said the priest. The secret policeman put a pistol to the priest’s head and blew his brains out in such a way that the brain matter splattered onto the face of the priest standing behind him. They executed every priest in this way. None were blindfolded. After the first killing, every other priest knew what was going to happen to him. Not one of those priests denied God. Ogorodnikov wept as he finished this story—a tear ran across his cheek that was paralyzed from the beatings he suffered from Soviet jailers decades earlier. But yes, Holy Father, let us continue to dream of a better world with Marxists.  Francis’s ten predecessors at least knew that Marxism was radically incompatible with Catholicism. But not Francis. Indeed, in 2018. a high Vatican official praised the Chinese Communists, saying that “those who are best implementing the social doctrine of the Church are the Chinese.” One hopes that news of the Holy Father’s gutless abasement before the Marxists at the Vatican does not reach the prison cells of Bishop Alvarez and Bishop Zhumin. They have enough to suffer without knowing that the pope has cozied up to their persecutors. Then again, this wouldn’t be the first time that Peter has abandoned Christ. https://europeanconservative.com/articles/commentary/popes-marxist-dreams/__________________________________________________________

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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