1. French Court Overturns Cardinal’s Conviction.

By Noemie Bisserbe and Francis X. Rocca, The Wall Street Journal, January 31, 2020, Pg. A10

A French appeals court overturned Thursday the conviction of a cardinal who had been found guilty of failing to report child sex abuse—a case that has become a barometer of Pope Francis ’ efforts to police the Catholic Church’s highest ranks.

The ruling potentially removes one major concern for the Vatican, which is still beset by abuse scandals involving high-ranking prelates and a larger crisis of confidence fueled by decades of clerical sex abuse of minors.

Cardinal Philippe Barbarin, archbishop of Lyon and France’s highest-ranking Catholic prelate, was found guilty in March of failing to report child sex abuse, the only conviction of such a high-ranking Catholic Church official for covering up instances of a crime that has deeply marred the church’s image.

Judges ruled that Cardinal Barbarin failed to report an allegation in July 2014, when a man notified the prelate that he had been abused as a child by the Rev. Bernard Preynat, a priest in the archdiocese. Cardinal Barbarin was given a six-month suspended jail sentence.

On Thursday, appellate court judges ruled that Cardinal Barbarin wasn’t obligated to report the 2014 allegation because the victim was an adult by then and capable of alerting authorities himself. If Cardinal Barbarin were to be held responsible, the judges said, then friends and parents who also knew could face similar charges.


2. On Abortion, Louisiana Eyes High Court: State defends law aggressively in part to help the argument it will make to justices.

By Jacob Gershman, The Wall Street Journal, January 31, 2020, Pg. A3

Facing lawsuits over its abortion laws, Louisiana decided the best defense was offense.

Lawyers for the state attorney general’s office devised an unusually aggressive legal strategy to defend itself in a series of lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of the state’s regulation of abortion providers, with one of the cases to be argued before the Supreme Court in March.

The state’s legal team dug deep for damaging information about the clinics, scouring databases for malpractice claims, physician-disciplinary records and health standards violations. The state deposed doctors and subpoenaed clinics—seeking internal communications, employment files and patient files—and sued clinics when they failed to produce records. At one point, Louisiana retained an out-of-state private investigator to track down a clinic executive in pursuit of patient records, according to court documents.

These efforts have been undertaken in part to bolster an argument that, if successful at the Supreme Court this spring, could upend abortion litigation nationwide: Louisiana says abortion providers don’t have patients’ best interests in mind and therefore shouldn’t be allowed to sue on women’s behalf.


3. Why Democrats who oppose abortion rights are finding it harder to remain in the party.

By Sarah Pulliam Bailey, The Washington Post, January 31, 2020, 6:00 AM

President Bill Clinton famously wanted to make abortion “safe, legal and rare.” Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton used that same phrase and added, “and by rare, I mean rare.” And President Barack Obama invited voters across the aisle to work to reduce the number of abortions.

But those kinds of rhetorical olive branches to voters who oppose abortion rights have been mostly absent from the 2020 Democratic campaign.

Abortion has historically presented a challenge for Catholic candidates who support abortion access because of the church’s teaching that abortion is always wrong. Biden, who is Catholic, was denied Communion by a priest over the issue in October. His own views shifted last year: After supporting the Hyde Amendment for decades, he said he now supports eliminating it.

The two major parties weren’t always so partisan on abortion….Although the parties’ platforms began to diverge in the early 1980s, many Democratic candidates still used language that could assuage voters who had qualms about abortion rights. One common argument was that Democratic policies on issues such as health care end up helping reduce the abortion rate.

“Both parties were trying to not make it an issue. It was politically toxic,” said Mary Ziegler, a professor at Florida State University College of Law whose book on abortion will come out in March. Now, she said, Democratic candidates have avoided making abortion rights a priority on the campaign trail, while conservative Republicans often focus on it to rally support.


4. Favorable Supreme Court ruling could expand school choice across the country.

By Scott Walker, The Washington Times, January 31, 2020, Pg. B1, Opinion

Since the beginning of the parental school choice program in Milwaukee, studies have shown that students do better attending a private school on a voucher than they do in traditional public school. According to the latest research, students in the Milwaukee voucher program score on average 4 percent higher in math and 5 percent higher in reading than students in the public school system. In fact, religious schools in the MPCP perform better than public schools by even higher margins, with Catholic schools outperforming public schools by 8.9 percent in English and 4.1 percent in math, when accounting for socioeconomic factors.

Children and families all across America deserve positive choices. Unfortunately, there are many barriers to education reform.

Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court heard Espinoza v. Montana. A favorable ruling in this case could dramatically expand school choice across the country.

In 2015, a new law went into effect in Montana that created a school choice program that would give children the ability to attend a private school through the Big Sky Scholarships program, funded by private donations through a tax credit scholarship. Kendra Espinoza, a single mom, wanted to send her two daughters to a religious school in Montana through this new program.

But soon after it started, the Montana Department of Revenue declared that the scholarships must be used only for non-religious private schools.

Lawyers for Montana cite the archaic Blaine Amendment in their state constitution which prevents tax dollars from going to schools that are run by a “church, sect or denomination.” Thirty-seven states across the country have Blaine Amendments. Originally, they were written to keep states from funding Catholic schools. This flies in the face of past U.S. Supreme Court rulings saying that laws specifically penalizing religious institutions are unconstitutional.

The highest court in the land now has the opportunity to once-and-for-all put an end to the anti-Catholic Blaine Amendments. This will free leaders all across America to pursue positive education reforms.

Scott Walker was the 45th governor of Wisconsin.


5. Can Pope Francis Deliver a Debt Miracle for Argentina?: President Alberto Fernández is seeking a little help to avert economic default.

By Marcelo J. García, The New York Times, January 31, 2020, Pg. A27, Opinion

Much of Pope Francis’ economic language, which attacks the inequalities of global capitalism and “the idolatry of money,” comes from his experience as a priest in Argentina, a country that has for decades lived in economic crisis, declaring in 2001 what was then the largest debt default in history ($82 billion) and getting the biggest rescue package ever by a country from the I.M.F. in 2018 ($57 billion). And the country is again on the brink of disaster.

When Mr. Fernández, who was sworn in as president in December, meets the pope at the Vatican on Friday, they are expected to discuss a recurrent problem: how to save Argentina from another debt default.

It is improbable that the pope can perform the miracle of turning creditors’ cash gluttony into altruism overnight, but Argentina’s debt recidivism can nonetheless use the moral patina of Francis’ progressive economic language, especially as Mr. Fernández tries to garner support for the country’s case at the I.M.F. board.


6. French Cardinal Acquitted of Abuse Cover-Up on Appeal: Cardinal Philippe Barbarin, the archbishop of Lyon, had been found guilty last year of failing to report a priest in his diocese who had admitted to sexually abusing dozens of Boy Scouts.

By Aurelien Breeden, The New York Times, January 31, 2020, Pg. A11, Opinion

A French appeals court on Thursday overturned a ruling against a cardinal who had been found guilty of covering up decades-old sexual abuse by a priest in his diocese, the latest twist in the most high-profile legal case against a clergyman in France.

Cardinal Philippe Barbarin, 69, the archbishop of Lyon, had been found guilty last year of failing to report allegations of child abuse by the Rev. Bernard Preynat to the authorities.

Cardinal Barbarin argued in court — and the appeals court agreed — that he wasn’t legally obligated to report the allegations to the authorities because Father Preynat’s victims were adults when they alerted the cardinal about the abuse, and because he did nothing to intentionally discourage them from going to the authorities themselves.


7. Developments in Washington.

By Maureen Ferguson, Catholic News Agency, January 31, 2020

The last weeks alone have witnessed sweeping developments on prayer in public schools, discrimination against religious organizations, mandatory abortion coverage in health insurance plans, and government funding of programs encouraging childbirth over abortion. Additionally, the president himself attended the March for Life, and Vice President Pence held a significant meeting with Pope Francis.

On school prayer, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos issued guidance clarifying that students do not compromise their right to pray because they attend a public school or university. The DeVos directive also ensures that religious student groups remain on equal footing with secular student groups.

The administration also issued far-reaching rules stating that religious and non-religious charities must be treated equally in the federal grant process…. Not only is this a huge win for religious freedom, but it’s also a huge win for the poor and vulnerable. Because, as we know, Catholic and other religious charities are highly regarded as among best in the field of adoption and foster care, caring for victims of human trafficking, providing for the elderly and the poor, and working with refugees and other vulnerable immigrant populations. Nine federal agencies participated in this rule making.

Another significant announcement is that the administration will vigorously enforce the Weldon Amendment, a longstanding law protecting conscience rights.

Moreover, the Department of Health and Human Services just came down squarely in support of state healthcare programs that recognize the sanctity of life. Texas had decided years ago that its Medicaid program would support pregnant women and their unborn children, but not abortion-promoting groups like Planned Parenthood. The Obama administration went after Texas but the Trump Administration just granted the necessary waiver supporting Texas’ pro-life policy.

The pope and vice president reportedly had a very warm meeting in which they agreed that the cause of life is the “most pressing moral issue of our time.” They also shared their commitment to persecuted Christians and other religious minorities in the Middle East. Pence talked of how proud he is that the United States has partnered with the Knight of Columbus to help rebuild Christian communities once decimated by ISIS in the Nineveh plain.

Maureen Malloy Ferguson is a Senior Fellow for The Catholic Association.


8. EWTN Radio Launches ‘Conversations with Consequences’ A Weekly Radio Show From the Network’s D.C. Studios.

By EWTN Global Catholic Network, January 31, 2020, 6:00 AM

The EWTN Global Catholic Radio Network will launch a weekly radio show Feb. 1 from the Network’s Washington, D.C. studios. “Conversations with Consequences,” a co-production of EWTN and Guadalupe Radio Network, features the powerhouse staff of The Catholic Association. The show, hosted by Dr. Grazie Christie, a practicing physician and mother of five (third from left), premieres 5 p.m. ET, Saturdays, beginning Feb. 1 on EWTN Radio.

“Whether discussing issues of Life, Religious Liberty, the Church, or Human Dignity, listeners can expect an intelligent and thoughtful conversation from a faithful Catholic perspective with the leading thinkers of our time. EWTN is proud to bring this new program to our audience,” said EWTN Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Michael P. Warsaw.

February is jam-packed. Upcoming guests include George Weigel, who will discuss Cardinal George Pell, who many believe is imprisoned in Australia for a crime he didn’t commit, the abuse crisis and religious liberty; Mary Rice Hasson, who will discuss transgenderism and gender ideology; U.S. Congressman Chris Smith, who will discuss pro-life issues from a federal perspective; and U.S. Senator Sam Brownback, who will discuss religious liberty issues.

“Our idea is to have a conversation, most of the time with guests but sometimes with each other, that is intellectual enough to spark consequences of thought – different ways of looking at difficult subjects – in our listeners,” said Dr. Grazie Christie, the show’s host who will be familiar to many EWTN viewers from her appearances on “Morning Glory,” “EWTN Pro-Life Weekly,” and “EWTN News Nightly.” “We thought there was room for a show where we could take the time to tackle issues in a deeper way than normally can be done on radio. I also think it’s important that we are well-informed professional women and well as mothers and wives. The culture is always telling us what’s good for women. It’s important for women themselves to be in that conversation, to say this is the real world as we’re experiencing it.”

Dr. Christie, a practicing physician, embodies this concept as she is also the mother of five. Her team includes Andrea Picciotti-Bayer, CA’s Legal Advisor and mother of 10, whose extensive legal career includes work as an appellate attorney; Maureen Malloy Ferguson, CA Senior Fellow, mother of five and a former National Right to Life Committee spokeswoman and Congressional liaison; and Ashley McGuire, CA Senior Fellow, author (“Sex Scandal: The Drive to Abolish Male and Female”), editor of the Institute for Family Studies blog, a policy fellow with the American Conservative Union Foundation, and a mother of three.


9. Doctrine is renewed with roots firmly planted in magisterium, pope says.

By Carol Glatz, Catholic News Service, January 30, 2020

Christian doctrine is not modified to keep up with passing times nor is it rigidly closed in on itself, Pope Francis told members and advisers of the doctrinal congregation.

“It is a dynamic reality that, staying faithful to its foundation, is renewed from generation to generation and is summed up in one face, one body and one name – the risen Jesus Christ,” he said.

“Christian doctrine is not a system that is rigid and closed in on itself, but neither is it an ideology that transforms with the changing of seasons,” he said Jan. 30, during an audience with cardinals, bishops, priests and laypeople who were taking part in the plenary assembly of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.


10. Roman Catholic Diocese of Buffalo: Bankruptcy imminent.

By Carolyn Thompson, Associated Press, January 30, 2020, 7:01 PM

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Buffalo faces near certain bankruptcy after posting a $5 million loss in 2019, and with a barrage of lawsuits from the clergy misconduct scandal still pending, according to a financial report released Thursday.


11. Two major banks pull support from Florida school voucher programs because of anti-LGBTQ policies.

By Valerie Strauss, The Washington Post, January 30, 2020, 8:23 PM

Two of the largest banks in the country are ending — at least temporarily — financial support for a Florida school voucher program after a newspaper investigation found that scores of participating schools have policies that discriminate against LGBTQ students.

Ohio-based Fifth Third Bank and California-based Wells Fargo said they would no longer donate money to organizations that administer the five programs in Florida that allow individuals and companies to donate money for student scholarships in exchange for tax credits. The state allows companies that pay Florida corporate income tax to redirect up to 100 percent of their tax liability to one of two organizations permitted to administer the voucher programs: Step Up for Students and AAA Scholarship Foundation.

The banks’ decisions come at a time of national debate over whether taxpayer money should fund religious education. The Supreme Court is considering a case, Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue, in which plaintiffs are asking the justices to determine the constitutionality of more than 35 states banning use of public funds for religious purposes.


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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