1. State lawmakers pledge to pass ERA in Virginia.

By Sarah Rankin and David Crary, Associated Press, The Washington Times, January 2, 2020, Pg. A10

Supporters of the Equal Rights Amendment are so confident Virginia is on the verge of becoming the critical 38th state to ratify the gender equality measure, they are already making plans for how they will celebrate.

But that jubilation could be largely symbolic. Despite broad support for the amendment in the state, the ERA’s prospects nationally are substantially more complicated.

The proposed 28th amendment to the Constitution faces a host of likely legal challenges and vehement opposition from conservative activists who depict the ERA as a threat to their stances on abortion and transgender rights.

The passage of time is also a factor. When the measure passed Congress in 1972, lawmakers attached a 1977 ratification deadline to it, then extended it to 1982. While the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives is likely to extend the deadline again, the Republicancontrolled Senate may balk, increasing the chances of litigation.

Lawsuits also could be waged over an attempt by five states in the 1970s to rescind their initial support for the amendment.

But some of the liveliest debate over the coming months will likely deal with two hot-button social issues that have evolved significantly since the ’70s: abortion access and the rights of transgender people.

While abortion has been legal nationwide since the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade ruling in 1973, many Republicancontrolled states have passed tough anti-abortion laws in recent years and are hopeful the high court might repeal or weaken Roe.

Pro-life activists worry that the ERA, if ratified, would be used by abortionrights supporters to quash abortion restrictions on grounds they specifically discriminate against women.

“That’s the whole reason ERA has been brought back,” said Anne Schlafly Cori of the conservative advocacy group Eagle Forum. “The proponents are concerned about Roe being stripped away by the Supreme Court, so they’re trying to shoehorn the ERA into the Constitution.”

2. Losing our Religion: Hollywood reluctant to make faith-based movies.

By James Varney, The Washington Times, January 2, 2029, Pg. A1

Hollywood is far removed from the days when it awarded an Oscar to Bing Crosby, playing an avuncular priest who saved schools and wayward youths in “Going My Way” and “The Bells of St. Mary’s.”

Analysts say Hollywood always has had a simmering hostility toward religion and the nation’s media elite have had a low-grade contempt for its practitioners.

The sentiment is more profound now. Producers and directors figure it makes more sense to drive devout elements of the faith-based community away from theaters and instead seek eyeballs by emphasizing liberal politics.

“I don’t think the industry is simply reflecting social changes they had no role in creating. It helped to shape it,” said Robert P. George, director of the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions at Princeton University.

He said the move is not surprising for an industry in which doctrinal religious practice is almost unthinkable.

Mr. George said social pressure is driving Hollywood’s decisions. “Ideology is much more powerful than moneymaking, and moneymaking is pretty powerful,” he said. “It comes down to what people in your social class think about you. Consider how Hollywood would trust, say, teachers unions more than Catholic priests. That reflects the fact culturally and morally: The public school unions are in line with Hollywood, and the Catholic Church is not. Evangelicals also. They are very unlikely to be portrayed favorably.”

Executives at Warner Bros. declined to discuss the topic, and those at Hollywood powerhouses Disney, Paramount and Sony Entertainment did not respond to requests for comment.


3. Pope Says He Is Sorry Over Slap On Hands.

By Jason Horowitz, The New York Times, January 2, 2020, Pg. A6

Pope Francis apologized on Wednesday for the flash of anger — or self-protection — that he exhibited while greeting the faithful around the Vatican’s giant Nativity scene after a New Year’s Eve liturgy the evening before.

In an incident captured on video and spread across the internet, Francis can be seen reaching into the crowd and seeking the hands of children. As he turns away, a woman in the crowd grabs his right hand with both of her hands and yanks the 83-year-old pope back, causing him to momentarily lose his balance. Francis, visibly upset, slaps twice at the woman’s hands to free himself, rebuking her, and then angrily turns away.

In his traditional Wednesday remarks, the pontiff offered an apology as he ruminated on patience and how it conquers “iniquity and power.”


4. Archbishop accuses Togo government of ‘specializing in fraud’ ahead of vote.

By Crux, January 2, 2020

As the people of Togo prepare to vote in a Feb. 22 presidential election February 22, 2019, retired Archbishop Kossi Philippe Fanoko Kpodzro of Lomé has accused the country’s ruling party of always winning through fraud.

“The ruling party specializes in fraud and therefore the electoral rolls, the very proper bodies to proclaim the results are all bought and corrupted and really, we are witnessing a systematically organized injustice. That’s why, this time, I said, it has to change,” he told the Lomé-based online news site, Icilome.com.

The 89-year-old archbishop also said he has opened a bank account to collect funds – he hopes between $5-12 million – that will be used to deploy election monitors across the country.


5. Cardinal Mueller: Church crisis comes from abandoning God, adapting to culture.

By Catholic News Agency, January 1, 2020, 9:27 AM

The crisis facing the Catholic Church today has arisen from an attempt – even by some within the Church – to align with the culture and abandon the teachings of the faith, said Cardinal Gerhard Mueller Jan. 1.

“The crisis in the Church is man-made and has arisen because we have cozily adapted ourselves to the spirit of a life without God,” the cardinal told thousands of Catholics gathered in Phoenix for the 2020 Student Leadership Summit hosted by the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS).

Calls for modernization demand that the Church reject what it holds to be true, for the sake of building a “new religion of world unity,” Mueller warned.

“In order to be admitted to this meta-religion, the only price the Church would have to pay is giving up her truth claim. No big deal, it seems, as the relativism dominant in our world anyway rejects the idea that we could actually know the truth, and presents itself as guarantor of peace between all world views and world religions.”


6. Pope Francis’ 2019: Panama to Pan-Amazon to Pachamama: A look back at the year that was for the Holy Father.

By Edward Pentin, National Catholic Register, January 1, 2020

The year 2019 was one of the most challenging of Pope Francis’ six-year pontificate, filled with plentiful activity and personal contact, but also hamstrung by scandal and growing expressions of unease from a minority of the faithful concerned about its direction.

During the past 12 months, the Pope produced a post-synodal apostolic exhortation on young people, announced new norms for dealing with clerical sexual abuse, and held a synod on the Amazon. He also found time to make seven foreign trips, visiting Panama for World Youth Day, Morocco, Bulgaria, North Macedonia, Romania, Mozambique, Madagascar, Mauritius, Thailand and Japan.

In February, he also became the first pope in modern history to set foot on the Arabian Peninsula, when he visited the United Arab Emirates — all in a year in which he turned 83 and celebrated his 50th anniversary as a priest.

The papal year began and ended on the theme of clerical sex abuse, with the Pope sending a message to U.S. bishops attending a Jan. 2-8 retreat, convened at his suggestion, on improving accountability and handling of abuse cases. He called for “collegial awareness” and “evangelical paths” and urged them to win trust by “sincere, daily, humble and generous service to all.”

The retreat was a precursor to a Feb. 21-24 Vatican global summit on abuse, which drew together 114 episcopal conference presidents to find more effective ways to deal with the crisis. Some lauded the meeting as timely and helpful; others felt it did not go far enough.

In other acts this year, the Pope unexpectedly created 13 new cardinals, many of whom were again drawn from the peripheries and the developing world. They also included Church leaders in tune with his views: open migration policies, concern for the environment and populism, a diplomatic rather than realist stance toward Islam, and sympathies for those supportive of homosexual issues.

After years of requests from historians, the Pope this year authorized the opening of the Vatican Secret Archives in 2020 pertaining to the entire pontificate of Venerable Pius XII (1939-1958). In October, he also renamed them the Vatican Apostolic Archives.


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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