1. The Vatican’s top expert on AI ethics is a friar from a medieval Franciscan order, By Frances D’Emilio, Associated Press, January 18, 2024, 9:16 AM Friar Paolo Benanti wears the plain brown robes of his medieval Franciscan order as he pursues one of the most pressing issues in contemporary times: how to govern artificial intelligence so that it enriches — and doesn’t exploit — people’s lives. Benanti is the Vatican’s go-to person on the technology and he has the ear of Pope Francis as well as some of Silicon Valley’s top engineers and executives. With a background in engineering, a doctorate in moral theology and a passion for what he calls the “ethics of technology,’’ the 50-year-old Italian priest is on an urgent mission that he shares with Francis, who, in his annual peace message for 2024, pushed for an international treaty to ensure the ethical use of AI technology. “What is the difference between a man who exists and a machine that functions?” said Benanti in an interview this week with The Associated Press during a break at the Pontifical Gregoriana University, where he teaches courses such as moral theology and bioethics to students preparing for the priesthood. “This is perhaps the greatest question of these times, because we are witnessing a challenge that every day grows more profound with a machine that is humanizing.”  https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2024/01/18/ai-ethics-benanti-vatican-italy-friar-microsoft/10920ee6-b5c2-11ee-b285-0853d4d1b92f_story.html?isMobile=1__________________________________________________________ 2. Anti-abortion activists brace for challenges ahead as they gather for annual March for Life, By David Crary, Associated Press, January 18, 2024, 8:13 AM A year ago, anti-abortion activists from across the U.S. gathered for their annual March for Life with reason to celebrate: It was their first march since the Supreme Court, seven months earlier, had overturned the nationwide right to abortion. At this year’s march, on Friday, the mood will be very different — reflecting formidable challenges that lie ahead in this election year. “We have undeniable evidence of victory — lives being saved,” said John Seago, president of Texas Right to Life. “But there is also a realization of the significant hurdles that our movement has right now in the public conversation.” Participants at the march in Washington will salute the 14 states enforcing bans on abortion throughout pregnancy.  https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2024/01/18/abortion-march-for-life-women-reproductive-rights/65df011a-b603-11ee-b285-0853d4d1b92f_story.html__________________________________________________________ 3. Missouri abortion-rights campaign backs proposal to enshrine access but allow late-term restrictions, By Summer Ballentine, Associated Press, January 18, 2024, 7:37 AM A Missouri abortion-rights campaign announced Thursday that it’s throwing support behind an amendment that would enshrine access to the procedure in the state constitution while allowing restrictions in later stages of pregnancy. Missourians for Constitutional Freedom said it is committing to a proposal, one of 11 versions, that would let lawmakers regulate or ban abortion after what’s called viability, with an exception for the protection of the life and physical and mental health of the woman. Supporters include the ACLU of Missouri, local Planned Parenthood affiliates and Abortion Action Missouri.  https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/2024/01/18/abortion-missouri-constitutional-amendment-viability/68ed583c-b5fb-11ee-b285-0853d4d1b92f_story.html__________________________________________________________ 4. Abortion Bans Are Failing. We Can Save More Unborn Lives Supporting Families, By Daniel K. Williams, The New York Times, January 18, 2024, Opinion Most abortion opponents did not expect the overturning of Roe v. Wade and the passage of state abortion bans to lead to the expansion of legal abortion in much of the United States. But this in fact is what happened: While 16 states ban most or virtually all abortions a year and a half after the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization ruling in June 2022, abortion numbers went up in states where it is legal.   After Roe, in 1973, resulted in the legalization of abortion in every state, opponents of abortion were divided as to how best to defend unborn human life. Most anti-abortion organizations favored a constitutional amendment that would protect human life from the moment of conception.  In the 1980s, anti-abortion organizations shifted their focus to the more achievable goal of reversing Roe through a Supreme Court decision — a change in tactics that solidified their support for the Republican Party, since Republican presidents and senators were far more likely than the Democrats to favor judicial nominees who objected to Roe. Now that Roe is gone, anti-abortion groups have pinned their hopes on bans as the primary way to protect unborn human life. But those bans have proved more unpopular than they expected, and have had less effect on the national abortion rate than they would have liked. Reports in late 2023 indicated that the annual number of abortions in the United States may have been higher after Dobbs than before the decision, since bans in some states were offset by increased protections for abortion rights elsewhere.  To save unborn lives, the anti-abortion movement may have to move beyond partisan thinking and support any proposals that are likely to reduce abortion, even when they come from Democrats. But in at least a few conservative states, some Republican legislators are already supporting free college tuition benefits, state Medicaid expansions for new mothers, reforms in the adoption and foster care systems, and paid family leave — all of which have the potential to reduce abortion rates as they reduce the economic burden on those caring for children or empower mothers to advance their economic prospects and secure higher-paying jobs. Abortion opponents should demand that lawmakers at both the state and national level prove their pro-life bona fides by supporting measures such as these that will offer positive alternatives to abortion — just as the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and other abortion opponents (including myself) joined with supporters of abortion rights in pushing for protections for pregnant workers.   Since the anti-abortion movement’s narrow focus on bans has alienated potential allies and failed to reduce the number of abortions, it needs to look again at a strategy that holds greater promise. A paid family leave plan or a state Medicaid expansion might not offer the movement the same immediately satisfying sense of victory as a state abortion ban — but, in the end, it might save a greater number of unborn lives. Daniel K. Williams teaches American history at Ashland University and is the author of “The Politics of the Cross: A Christian Alternative to Partisanship.” https://www.nytimes.com/2024/01/18/opinion/abortion-bans-pro-life.html__________________________________________________________ 5. Workplace religious freedom, parental rights backed in annual religious liberty poll, By Mark A. Kellner, The Washington Times, January 18, 2024 Favorable views of religious acceptance in the workplace, the role of religion in aiding society and parental rights based on religious beliefs are on an upswing, according to a survey from the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. Americans increasingly support religious freedom, scoring the highest-ever 69 out of 100 in the public interest law firm’s fifth annual Religious Liberty Index. Specific support was registered for parents having the right to raise their children in a way consistent with their faith. The majority of survey respondents, 59%, said they believe religion is part of the solution to America’s woes. Last year’s results were split evenly between those who viewed faith as a solution and those who saw it as a problem.  https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2024/jan/17/workplace-religious-freedom-parental-rights-backed/__________________________________________________________ 6. Maine bishop blasts liberal abortion bill as ‘immoral and unnecessary’, By John Lavenburg, Crux, January 18, 2024 A proposal from Maine legislators to codify the right to an abortion throughout a pregnancy in the state’s constitution has drawn the ire of the state’s lone Catholic bishop, who has called the proposal “immoral and unnecessary.” The proposal, made earlier this week, follows last summer’s passage of a bill that expanded abortion access in the state from about 24 weeks – when a fetus is generally viable outside of the womb – to any time during a pregnancy if deemed medically necessary by a licensed physician. That bill narrowly passed by a 73-69 vote, giving Maine one of the least restrictive abortion laws in the United States. State legislators now look to cement that reality with their new proposal to amend the constitution.  https://cruxnow.com/church-in-the-usa/2024/01/maine-bishop-blasts-liberal-abortion-bill-as-immoral-and-unnecessary__________________________________________________________ 7. A New Threat to Notre-Dame Cathedral’s Wondrous Windows, A plan to replace the neo-Gothic glazing in the cathedral’s southern chapels with stained glass by contemporary artists would sacrifice a carefully created harmony of light., By Barbara Drake Boehm, The Wall Street Journal, January 17, 2024, 5:40 PM, Opinion A public outcry erupted in December 1938 as stained-glass windows by 12 living French artists were provisionally installed in upper windows of the Cathedral of Notre-Dame, Paris, displacing part of the neo-Gothic glazing created under the direction of architect Eugène Viollet-le-Duc in the mid-19th century. Some called it sacrilegious; others criminal. Ten members of the Académie Française, including the renowned medievalist Emile Mâle, penned a letter to Cardinal Jean Verdier, Archbishop of Paris, opposing the initiative. Eighty-five years later, history seems to be repeating itself. On Dec. 8 of last year, French President Emmanuel Macron toured the cathedral, where restoration following the devastating 2019 fire continues apace. He announced that Notre-Dame would reopen on Dec. 8, 2024, and, responding to a proposal from Laurent Ulrich, Archbishop of Paris, he invited contemporary artists to compete for the privilege of creating new stained-glass windows to replace the neo-Gothic glass in six chapels of the cathedral’s south aisle. The president’s office may have supposed that this 21st-century initiative would be well-received. The contentious 1938 project, abandoned at the outbreak of World War II, is largely forgotten. And, in the 1960s, the Ministry of Culture approved the removal of the same 12 disputed neo-Gothic windows in the clerestory and tribune, in favor of abstract designs by Jacques Le Chevallier that remain in the cathedral today. Furthermore, the glass now slated for removal, devoid of narrative, and known as grisaille (“shades of gray” accented with color), is dismissed by some influential academics as “cheap,” “timid” and “repetitive.” Au contraire! Controversy has erupted anew. A petition calling for the abandonment of the plan boasts over 129,000 signatures so far. The Académie has solemnly declared its opposition. Reporters are eagerly following the story. A global public watches, entranced by a monument that transcends religion and time, that is ours to love but not control. In France, Church and State have supported the arts since the Middle Ages, ensuring the nation’s inestimably important place in world culture. The Gothic cathedral of Notre-Dame owes its existence to the 1163 initiative of Bishop Maurice de Sully, under whom its construction began. Over the centuries, officers of the State have likewise engaged the best living artists to embellish it.  https://www.wsj.com/articles/a-new-threat-to-notre-dames-wondrous-windows-ee2c7f7c__________________________________________________________ 8. House to consider bill to halt Biden administration’s defunding of crisis pregnancy centers, By Daniel Payne, Catholic News Agency, January 17, 2024, 1:30 PM A bill under consideration in Congress would head off the White House’s attempts to strip federal funding from some crisis pregnancy centers throughout the U.S.  H.R. 6918, titled the Supporting Pregnant and Parenting Women and Families Act, was introduced in the House of Representatives this month. The bill if passed would “prohibit the Secretary of Health and Human Services from restricting funding for pregnancy centers.” The bill, which is scheduled to be considered on Thursday, is meant to counteract the Biden administration’s efforts to restrict crisis pregnancy centers around the country from participating in a major federal welfare program. The government first proposed the rule change last year, arguing that certain pregnancy resource centers that receive Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) funding were potentially not meeting the statutory threshold for receiving those funds.  https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/256557/house-to-consider-bill-to-halt-biden-administration-s-defunding-of-crisis-pregnancy-centers__________________________________________________________

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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