1. Biden expands abortion, contraception protections on Roe anniversary, By Dan Diamond, The Washington Post, January 22, 2024, 5:00 AM The White House on Monday is announcing new steps intended to ensure access to contraception, abortion medication and emergency abortions at hospitals. It represents President Biden’s latest bid to contrast himself with Republican challengers who support strict abortion limits and arrives on the anniversary of the Supreme Court ruling that guaranteed abortion rights for nearly 50 years. The effort to expand access to contraception involves several measures. Federal agencies are issuing guidance that would make no-cost contraceptives more available under the Affordable Care Act and take similar actions to expand contraception access for federal employees. Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra also plans to send a letter to health insurers instructing them of their obligation to provide no-cost contraceptives, according to a memo the White House sent to reporters Sunday. The federal health department also announced a new team dedicated to enforcing its interpretation of a law, known as the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act, or EMTALA, which the Biden administration has said requires hospitals to provide emergency abortions nationwide, including in the 21 states where the procedure is limited or banned. Meanwhile, Biden on Monday is expected to convene two dozen senior officials in the White House for a meeting of his reproductive health task force, where he will be joined by several physicians who have practiced in states with abortion bans. Vice President Harris is slated to kick off a multistate reproductive rights tour with a visit to Wisconsin, where she is expected to criticize a proposal by state Republicans to ban abortion after 14 weeks of pregnancy. Wisconsin’s Democratic governor has already said he will veto the bill.  https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/2024/01/22/biden-abortion-contraception/__________________________________________________________ 2. Lawmakers take on court rulings that apply sex discrimination rules to religious schools, churches, By Mark A. Kellner, The Washington Times, January 22, 2024 New legislation in Congress would stop federal judges from applying Title IX sex discrimination rules on religious schools or churches because of their tax-exempt status. The move follows federal district court rulings in Maryland and California that a tax exemption equals a cash payment that subjects private religious schools to Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972. Title IX protects people from discrimination based on sex at places that receive federal financial assistance. It covers sexual harassment, failure to provide equal athletic and education opportunities and discrimination based on pregnancy.  The Maryland case, Buettner-Hartsoe v. Baltimore Lutheran High School Association, involved claims by former students that the association’s Concordia Preparatory School didn’t adequately address complaints of sexual assault and verbal sexual harassment. The school said it did not accept federal money and was not subject to Title IX. In the California case, a female student on the varsity football team at Cuyama Valley High School claimed her Title IX rights were violated when Valley Christian Academy refused to let her play in games between the two schools’ teams.   https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2024/jan/19/lawmakers-take-on-court-rulings-that-apply-title-i/__________________________________________________________ 3. Bible itself on trial in Christian politician’s legal fight, By Billy Hallowell, The Washington Times, January 22, 2024, Opinion Imagine facing potential jail time or massive fines for sharing a Bible verse on social media. Likewise, take a moment to envision being criminally castigated for merely commenting on theology – or for codifying in a pamphlet your thoughts about biblical marriage. These are just some of the acts at the center of Paivi Rasanen’s “1984”-esque nightmare. In a plot seemingly ripped from the pages of an Alfred Hitchcock script, Ms. Rasanen, a member of the Finnish parliament who previously served as the nation’s interior secretary, was brought up on “hate crimes” charges for simply expressing her Christian beliefs. Rather than a terror-inflicted plight in the bowels of a reclusive, human rights-abusing nation such as North Korea or a horror unfolding at the hands of Chinese Community Party officials, these attacks on free exercise are developing in an otherwise free society — and that should alarm us all.  Ms. Rasanen has spent years in court fighting criminal charges against her for daring to share her perspective on biblical Christianity. What precisely was she guilty of, you ask?  She reportedly tweeted a text from Romans 1:24-27 on June 17, 2019, which bizarrely sparked a criminal investigation. Those tweets were paired with a pamphlet she wrote on traditional marriage 20 years ago, adding fuel to the legal fire.  A rational person would expect the prosecution to be thoroughly humiliated after raising such preposterous charges — and twice losing — but just days before the deadline for appealing the case to Finland’s Supreme Court, Ms. Rasanen learned she may potentially be heading back to the courtroom to further defend her religious freedoms. Ms. Rasanen told me earlier this month that she was shocked to learn the prosecutor was appealing the latest loss to the Finnish Supreme Court, detailing how clear the appeals court was about her innocence and the absurdity of the charges against her.  https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2024/jan/17/this-is-most-dangerous-legal-battle-in-world-right/__________________________________________________________ 4. Journalism That Matters: Justice Served at Notre Dame, The campus newspaper of the University of Notre Dame won an important freedom-of-speech decision against a university professor who advocated for abortion rights., By National Catholic Register, January 22, 2024, Editorial The final score: Faithfully Catholic University of Notre Dame student journalists, 1; entitled pro-abortion Notre Dame professor, 0. This outcome is the gratifying conclusion to the frivolous defamation lawsuit that Tamara Kay filed last May against the intrepid staff of The Irish Rover, a campus newspaper, dedicated to upholding the university’s Catholic identity, that publishes reports about campus activities that conflict with this identity. So why did Kay, a sociologist who teaches at Notre Dame’s Keough School of Global Affairs, file her legal action against the plucky student-run publication? To seek retribution against the Rover staff for publishing a pair of articles about her in October 2022 and March 2023. The articles in question accurately detailed Kay’s strident abortion-rights advocacy, both on and off campus, as well as some recent efforts to facilitate abortion access for Notre Dame students.  And when the case was adjudicated, it was a legal shutout in favor of the Rover. In his Jan. 8 decision upholding the defendants’ right to free speech and dismissing all of Kay’s allegations, St. Joseph County senior Judge Steven David concisely enumerated the reasons why her claims were comprehensively bogus: “Because the Court has found that the alleged defamatory statements were true, within the meaning of the law, not made with actual malice, did not contain a defamatory inference, and there were no damages that were causally linked to The Irish Rover Articles, Dr. Kay’s defamation claim fails and the statements in the Articles were lawful.”  At a minimum, Kay’s glaring hypocrisy alongside of her blatant support for abortion ought to prompt Notre Dame’s senior leadership to publicly applaud The Irish Rover’s vindication in court. In light of the university’s long-standing timidity about reining in the excesses of its faculty progressives, however, that’s highly unlikely to happen.  https://www.ncregister.com/commentaries/journalism-that-matters-justice-served-at-notre-dame__________________________________________________________ 5. ‘Slum priests’ slam new libertarian government in Pope’s native Argentina, By Eduardo Campos Lima, Crux, January 22, 2024 A group of 60 “slum priests” in Pope Francis’s native country released a Jan. 19 statement denouncing what they described as deteriorating living conditions for millions of impoverished Argentines, driven by rising food prices and decreasing earnings. Though he’s only been in office for a little over a month, new Argentine President Javier Milei nervetheless came in for criticism by the “slum priests,” who asserted that his minimalist conception of the role of the government in society is contributing to the crisis.  He also claimed that Milei’s program is at odds with Catholic teaching, not to mention Pope Francis’s own vision. “Taking the state out of the role of working for social justice is something that opposes the Church’s social doctrine,” Viola said.  The document was signed by priests and missionaries from several Argentinian cities, all of them connected to the pastoral attention to slums and poor neighborhoods – a ministry more intensely promoted since the 1960s, especially in Buenos Aires, where such group became known as the curas villeros (“slum priests” in Spanish.) The curas villeros have an ancient connection with Pope Francis and were one of the major church forces to campaign against Milei during last year’s presidential race. Not only did they object to several offensive statements by Milei directed at the pope, but they also criticized his radical ideas concerning the role of the state in society. Buenos Aires’s curas villeros even promoted a Mass in reparation for Milei’a offenses against the pontiff, and some directly criticized Milei’s ideology during interviews with the press.  https://cruxnow.com/church-in-the-americas/2024/01/slum-priests-slam-new-libertarian-government-in-popes-native-argentina__________________________________________________________ 6. Biden Campaign Sharpens Its Post-Roe Message, By Katie Rogers, The New York Times, January 21, 2024, Pg. A12 President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris will headline events next week centered around protecting abortion rights, throwing more heft behind an issue that has galvanized voters in the 18 months since the Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade.  “We are not asking anyone to abandon their personal beliefs,” she said during an appearance on Wednesday, adding that “the government should not be telling women what to do with their bodies.” The idea that preserving access to abortion is tantamount to preserving personal freedoms has been embraced by Biden administration officials, lawmakers and activists who hope it will energize a flagging base and draw independent voters into the fold. They also want to contrast the administration’s policies with the political peril that the Republican Party faces by embracing hard-line measures.  https://www.nytimes.com/2024/01/20/us/politics/biden-harris-roe-abortion.html__________________________________________________________ 7. Dutch cardinal has New Hampshire moment with response to ‘Fiducia Supplicans’, By John L. Allen Jr., Crux, January 21, 2024, Opinion  While all analogies are inexact, there’s a sense in which 70-year-old Dutch Cardinal Wim Eijk may have had a “New Hampshire moment” this week. It came not at the ballot box, but with a carefully worded response from the Dutch bishops to Fiducia Supplicans, the controversial Vatican declaration on non-liturgical blessings of same-sex unions, which managed to strike a clearly contrasting note without veering into open dissent. Up to this point, the consensus among most Vatican-watchers had been that the prohibitive favorite among conservatives for the next pope is Cardinal Péter Erdő of Budapest, 71, a gifted canon lawyer who’s served as the Primate of Hungary since 2002, winning high marks as a strong leader both domestically and in the global Church. (Among other things, Erdő was the relator, or chairman, of the two ultra-contentious Synods of Bishops on the Family in 2014 and 2015.) Heretofore, Eijk, a physician who specialized in internal medicine before pursuing the priesthood, usually would be mentioned as a “B list” conservative alternative. In part, that’s because few observers consider the hyper-secular Netherlands as a role model for the universal Church; in part, it’s because Eijk may have struck some center-right Catholics, i.e., moderates who lean only slightly to the right, as a bit too ideologically extreme. In the wake of the statement on Fiducia, however, the Dutch prelate seems likely to get a second look among conservatives seeking a candidate who would lead the church in a different direction, but without too much ecclesiastical whiplash.  In terms of why the Jan. 16 statement might entice conservative Catholics to take a new look at Eijk, it’s largely because of the document’s balance of restraint and clarity. To begin with, the entire statement is just 292 words long in English translation, illustrating something copy-editors have tried to get across to prolix young authors for generations: To wit, that you don’t always need a lot of words in order to say a great deal. Notably, there’s no criticism of Pope Francis or Argentine Cardinal Víctor Manuel Fernández, the prefect of the Vatican’s Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith that issued Fiducia Supplicans, and no use of incendiary terms such as “heresy”, “error” or “apostasy.” Indeed, there’s no explicit repudiation of Fiducia at all, and the bishops actually take pains to declare that “with Pope Francis,” they want to “underline the pastoral importance of closeness and accompaniment.” Yet at the same time, there’s no mistaking that the bishops strike a different note on the critically important question of who, exactly, would be the object of the non-liturgical blessings envisioned by Fiducia Supplicans. The Vatican document refers repeatedly to a “couple” and “couples” receiving such blessings, but the Dutch statement refers only to individuals, carefully employing the third person singular (“he/she” and “his/her”) in order to underscore the point.  In other words, the Dutch bishops have broken with the western European pack in not issuing enthusiastic endorsements of Fiducia Supplicans, but they have not joined the chorus of open critics either. Instead, they have taken a measured middle path.  Whether that will be enough to turn him into a serious contender remains to be seen, especially since there’s no indication right now that Francis is nearing the end of the road – in a recent interview, he pointedly took the question of resignation off the table, at least for the moment. Nevertheless, what can be said is that in conservative circles right now, Eijk is getting a closer look – and in politics, sometimes that’s all it takes. https://cruxnow.com/news-analysis/2024/01/dutch-cardinal-has-new-hamshire-moment-with-response-to-fiducia-supplicans__________________________________________________________ 8. Pope Francis calls for release of 6 religious sisters taken hostage in Haiti, By Courtney Mares, Catholic News Agency, January 21, 2024, 11:05 AM Pope Francis called for the release of six religious sisters who have been kidnapped in Haiti in his Angelus address on Sunday. Armed gunmen took the religious sisters hostage in Port-au-Prince on Friday during a bus hijacking, according to Vatican News. The sisters, members of the Sisters of St. Anne congregation, were abducted along with all of the other bus passengers. “I have learned with sorrow of the kidnapping in Haiti of a group of people, including six religious sisters,” Pope Francis said on Jan. 21. “In my heartfelt plea for their release, I pray for social concord in the country. And I invite everyone to bring an end to the violence, which is causing a great deal of suffering to that beloved population.”  https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/256599/pope-francis-calls-for-release-of-6-religious-sisters-taken-hostage-in-haiti__________________________________________________________ 9. J.B. Pritzker vs. Catholic Schools, By The Wall Street Journal, January 20, 2024, Pg. A14, Editorial Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker and Democrats in the Legislature killed the Invest in Kids scholarship program last year, blocking money for more than 9,000 low-income students to escape failing public schools. Now comes the second wave of destruction as the schools that welcomed the scholarship students are beginning to close.  In a statement on Thursday, the Archdiocese of Chicago said Catholic schools in the Windy City are facing a “financial cliff” after the loss of Invest in Kids. “We are doing all that we can to keep our schools open,” Catholic schools superintendent Greg Richmond said, but “these may not be the last closures in our archdiocese.”  Schools like these are often the best chance for low-income families to escape rotten union schools. At Berwyn North, the neighborhood where St. Odilo school is located, 30.8% of students in third through eighth grade are proficient in reading and 18.5% in math. In the Cicero school district, 18.1% of third through eighth graders are proficient in reading and 9.8% in math. Parents will now have to send children back to these failure factories. (This data comes from the Illinois Assessment of Readiness via the Illinois Policy Institute.) Private-school families often unite to raise money through donations, and many are now fighting to save the education the state has undermined. When St. Bede Catholic School in Ingleside said it needed to raise $400,000 to keep its doors open, students began a fundraising effort. Their commitment is admirable, but the Hail Mary won’t fix the chronic funding gap created by the disappearance of state scholarship students. They’ll need to find another $400,000 next year. The point to understand is that this is exactly what the Chicago Teachers Union and their Democratic front men intended in killing the Invest in Kids program. They want private schools to fail so that parents have no choice other than sending their children to union-run schools. It’s a moral and political disgrace. https://www.wsj.com/articles/illinois-catholic-schools-closing-invest-in-kids-program-j-b-pritzker-c2dacdd5__________________________________________________________ 10. To help Central American democracy, use pressure, not passivity, By The Washington Post, January 19, 2024, 3:02 PM, Editorial The release of a political prisoner anywhere is cause for celebration. And yet relief that Nicaraguan Bishop Rolando Álvarez’s wrongful imprisonment has ended must come with a caveat: It was only achieved at the expense of forced expatriation. On Jan. 14, Bishop Álvarez, along with 18 other Catholic political prisoners — Bishop Isidoro Mora, 15 priests and two seminarians — left Nicaragua and flew to Rome. The freedom-for-exile deal had been worked out between the Vatican and Nicaragua’s dictator, Daniel Ortega, who has been at war with his country’s church ever since it lent support to popular protests in 2018, denounced his regime’s human rights violations and attempted to broker a peaceful transition to democracy. Bishop Álvarez represented a particularly courageous challenge to the regime. He had been a political prisoner since August 2022, having been convicted and sentenced to 26 years on such spurious charges as “undermining national integrity” and “propagation of false news.” In February 2023, he balked at joining 222 other Nicaraguan political prisoners who were expelled to the United States in a deal facilitated by the Biden administration. According to the Pillar, a U.S.-based news outlet that focuses on Catholic issues, regime officials presented the bishop with a blank sheet of paper at the time the others were being readied for expulsion and told him to sign. He refused, suspecting it was a trick to create a false confession. More recently, suffering from health problems, he agreed to leave the country. The latest prisoner releases culminate Mr. Ortega’s systematic attempt to cripple and subjugate the Nicaraguan church, in a manner similar to the strategy Fidel Castro employed against the Cuban church beginning in 1961. According to three United Nations special rapporteurs, the regime has stripped 310 nongovernmental organizations associated with the Catholic Church of their rights to operate since 2022. It has decreed the closure of at least 12 church media outlets. In August, the government revoked the legal status of the Jesuit-run Central American University and seized the campus. The Vatican closed its embassy in Nicaragua last spring after the government proposed suspending relations. Priests say they’re routinely spied on and harassed. More than 100 Catholic priests have fled, been kicked out of the country, or denied reentry. In October, the government freed 12 other Catholic priests from prison and sent them to Rome, again under a deal with the Vatican. Pope Francis’s response to all of this has been disappointingly passive. On New Year’s Day he said he was praying for Nicaragua and “following with concern” events there in which “bishops and priests have been deprived of their freedom.” The Vatican should protest loudly, but has been cautious, probably out of fear that strong public criticism will only make matters worse for the remaining clergy. The Pope’s timidity will probably be repaid with more repression as indeed it has been already. In contrast to the Nicaragua expulsions, Guatemala offers a ray of hope and an example of what outside pressure in support of democratic change can sometimes accomplish.  The obstacles Mr. Arévalo must overcome are still large, but his election win and the concerted backing of the Biden administration are signs that democracy in Central America still has a chance. https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2024/01/19/nicaragua-expels-catholic-clerics/__________________________________________________________ 11. 6 nuns have been kidnapped in Haiti while they were traveling on a bus, religious leaders say, By Associated Press, January 19, 2024, 2:56 PM Six nuns were kidnapped Friday in Haiti as they traveled on a bus through the capital, according to religious leaders. The nuns were accompanied by an undetermined number of unidentified people on the bus who also were kidnapped, according to a statement by the Haitian Conference of the Religious. It said the nuns are from the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Anne. The congregation didn’t respond to messages for comment. It wasn’t immediately known who was responsible for Friday’s kidnappings, although gangs that control an estimated 80% of Port-au-Prince have been blamed for thousands of abductions.  https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2024/01/19/haiti-nuns-kidnapped-gangs-port-au-prince/d0d2678a-b704-11ee-b285-0853d4d1b92f_story.html__________________________________________________________ 12. Dictatorship in Nicaragua cancels legal personhood of 10 Catholic and evangelical NGOs, By Walter Sanchez Silva, Catholic News Agency, January 19, 2024, 6:00 PM In a new attack against the Catholic Church and other Christians in Nicaragua, the dictatorship of President Daniel Ortega and his wife, Vice President Rosario Murillo, has canceled the legal personhood of several religious congregations and evangelical groups. On Jan. 16, the Ministry of the Interior published in the official government newspaper La Gaceta the agreement ordering the measure, signed by Minister María Amelia Coronel Kinloch, and affecting 16 nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), 10 of which are Catholic and evangelical institutions. Of the 16 groups, nine organizations were dissolved by order of the government and their assets will be expropriated, while the other seven, according to the government notice, requested voluntary cancellation. The six government-dissolved religious groups are the Consecrated Missionaries of the Most Holy Savior Foundation, the Missionaries of the Company of Mary Association (Montfort Missionaries), the Jehovah Will Provide Pentecost Mission Association, the Evangelistic and Prophetic Apostolic Mission Association, the New Restoration Family Church Foundation, and the Worldwide Missions Association of Nicaragua.  https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/256588/dictatorship-in-nicaragua-cancels-legal-personhood-of-10-catholic-and-evangelical-ngos__________________________________________________________ 13. Vatican prefect: Fiducia Supplicans draws ‘some negative reactions’ from Christian leaders, By Matthew Santucci, AC Wimmer, Catholic News Agency, January 19, 2024, 4:00 PM Orthodox and other Christian leaders have raised concerns to the Vatican about its recent declaration allowing nonliturgical blessings of same-sex couples, according to a top cardinal in charge of ecumenical affairs. In an exclusive interview with EWTN and in separate comments to the Vatican’s news agency, Cardinal Kurt Koch, prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Christian Unity, revealed that he has received negative reactions to the Dec. 18, 2023, declaration Fiducia Supplicans. Both interviews were conducted in connection with this year’s Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, which runs from Jan. 18–25. “I have received a long letter from all the Oriental Orthodox churches. They want to have some explanation and clarification about this document,” Koch told EWTN. In his interview with EWTN, which will be aired on Sunday, Jan. 21, on “Vaticano,” Koch further discussed the implications of the Orthodox churches’ reception of Fiducia Supplicans and how the issue of same-sex blessings has divided the Western churches.  https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/256579/cardinal-koch-some-negative-reactions-from-christian-leadersabout-fiducia-supplicans__________________________________________________________ 14. Why a papal trip to Vietnam is now possible, By Luke Coppen, The Pillar, January 19, 2024, 2:06 PM Until quite recently, a papal visit to Vietnam would have seemed fanciful, like a pontifical trip to the North Pole or Mars. But this week, it began to look like a genuine possibility. That is surprising, given that no pope has ever set foot in the Southeast Asian country officially known as the Socialist Republic of Vietnam and home to almost 100 million people, around 7 million of whom are Catholic.  Aside from Pope Francis’ fluctuating health, the major obstacle to a papal trip is the lack of full diplomatic relations between Vietnam and the Holy See.  But given the rate at which ties have been strengthened since March, it’s not unreasonable to think that this problem could be resolved.  Commentators point to the case of Myanmar (Burma), another strongly Buddhist Southeast Asian nation that had never received a papal visit. In February 2017, the Vatican suggested the establishment of full diplomatic relations. Myanmar’s parliament unanimously approved the proposal in March that year. In May, the two sovereign states announced that they had agreed to the step. And in November, Pope Francis touched down at Yangon International Airport, at the start of a historic four-day visit. Holy See diplomats may have a similar fast-track idea in mind for Vietnam. Whether they succeed will depend not only on the 87-year-old pope’s health, but also the continued goodwill of Vietnam’s communist leadership.  For now, the omens are looking good. https://www.pillarcatholic.com/p/why-a-papal-trip-to-vietnam-is-now__________________________________________________________ 15. Amid Cold And Snow, National March For Life Pledges Solidarity With Moms And Children, By Peter Jesserer Smith, OSV News, January 19, 2024 Against gray skies and falling snow, thousands of people flocked Jan. 19 to the nation’s capital for the national March for Life, gathering them under the theme “for every woman, for every child,” showing their resolve amid the piercing cold to make abortion eventually “unthinkable” in the U.S.  Ashley McGuire of The Catholic Association told OSV News that the march demonstrates that even with the end of Roe “there’s still a lot of work to be done.” In fact, the theme of the next day’s 25th Annual Cardinal O’Connor Conference on Life at Georgetown University focused on this pro-life challenge: “Discerning the next 25 years.” “But I think we still have that same kind of youthful energy that we need to finish the work that was started,” she said.  https://www.osvnews.com/2024/01/19/amid-cold-and-snow-national-march-for-life-pledges-solidarity-with-moms-and-children/__________________________________________________________

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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