TCA Podcast, – “Conversations with Consequences,” Episode 246 – Walk For Life West Coast Turns 20 & Remembering Benedict XVI! With pro-life events kicking off across the country this month, we hear all about San Francisco’s Walk for Life West Coast celebrating 20 years this January! Eva Muntean discusses headliners including Live Action’s Lila Rose and pro-life momentum on the ground in California! As we remember Pope Benedict XVI marking one year since his passing, we revisit with Edward Pentin about his life and legacy–and what we are still learning from this saintly man. Father Roger Landry also offers an inspiring homily for this Sunday’s Gospel as we celebrate the Epiphany. Catch the show every Saturday at 7amET/5pmET on EWTN radio! 1. The Incarnation Changes Even Nonbelievers, If you hear the story of the baby who is God, you won’t be the same person as before., By Robert Barron, The Wall Street Journal, January 5, 2024, Pg. A13, Opinion G.K. Chesterton once observed that even those who don’t believe in the doctrine of the Incarnation are different for having heard it. Christians celebrate this transformative revelation from Dec. 25, Christmas Day, through Jan. 6, the feast of the Epiphany. There is something so counterintuitive about the claim that God became human that the minds of those who but entertain the notion change willy-nilly. If you have taken in the story of the baby who is God, you simply aren’t the same person you were before.  On the feast of Epiphany, Christians remember the journey of the Magi to visit the Christ child in Bethlehem. The magoi—magicians, astrologers, astronomers—were surveyors of the night sky. They were seeking scientific knowledge of the stars and planets, but their deeper quest was for signs of the divine purpose, for like many others in the ancient world, they were convinced that God would reveal something of his will through portents in the heavens. So they found the star. The Magi stand for all those down through the ages and across the cultures who have hungered and thirsted for meaning, for the ultimate good, for the living God. The mysterious star led them to the most surprising place: a cave outside the unremarkable town of Bethlehem where a child lay in the animals’ manger. They found the God who had stooped down to lift us up, the God who wants nothing other than to make us fully alive. The Scriptures say that an angel warned them in a dream that they were under suspicion and that they therefore returned to their home country by another route. Of course they did, for as Archbishop Fulton Sheen observed: “No one who ever meets Christ with a good will returns the same way as he came.” Bishop Barron leads the Roman Catholic Diocese of Winona-Rochester, Minn., and is founder of the ministerial organization Word on Fire. 2. Vatican Defends Rule Allowing Blessings For Gay Couples but Gives Nod to Critics, By Jason Horowitz, The New York Times, January 5, 2023, Pg. A7 In the weeks since Pope Francis approved a rule allowing the blessing of same-sex couples, some bishops in conservative corners of the church, such as Africa, have said they wouldn’t allow priests to perform the practice, which they believe contradicts church doctrine. On Thursday, the Vatican said in a statement that any bishops opposed to the rule should take an “extended period of pastoral reflection” to wrap their heads around why the Vatican says it is in keeping with church teaching. The Vatican also said that while “local culture” should be taken into account when it came to applying the declaration, bishops could not — in “a total or definitive denial” — forbid priests who want to bestow the blessings from doing so. Bishops who oppose the rule, the Vatican said, should not misconstrue it as a Vatican effort to “approve nor justify” relationships considered sinful, and should understand that it does not undercut church teaching against same-sex marriage, because informal blessings are not formal rites. 3. Trump wins back antiabortion movement as activists plot 2025 crackdowns, Many activists are looking past the former president’s refusal to endorse a national abortion ban, focusing instead on how a future administration could restrict abortion pills, By Caroline Kitchener, Josh Dawsey and Hannah Knowles, The Washington Post, January 5, 2023, 6:00 AM When Donald Trump did not back a national abortion ban, the leader of one of the country’s largest antiabortion groups, Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, blasted his position as “morally indefensible.” The president of another leading antiabortion organization, Students for Life, took a stand months later after Trump called strict state bans “terrible” — deploying volunteers to a Trump rally in Miami with signs that read, “Make Trump Pro-Life Again.” That was last year. Now, with voting set to begin in a Republican presidential race that many expect will soon coronate Trump as the presumptive nominee, those two prominent activists and other leading antiabortion figures have largely put their criticisms aside — focusing instead on what a second Trump presidency could mean for the antiabortion movement. 4. Sudan bishops praise clergy, religious for courage in the face of violence, By Ngala Killian Chimtom, Crux, January 5, 2023 As a deadly conflict continues to rage in Sudan, Catholic bishops both inside the country and in neighboring South Sudan have used their Christmas message this year to praise the clergy and men and women religious for continuing to serve despite the risks. “To you, our dear clergy and religious men and women, we would like to extend our sincere gratitude for your courage and resilience,” they said. 5. DDF clarifies ‘Fiducia supplicans’ after ‘understandable’ bishops’ reactions, By Luke Coppen, The Pillar, January 4, 2024, 12:17 PM The Vatican’s doctrinal office issued a clarification Thursday regarding its recent declaration on “the possibility of blessing couples in irregular situations and same-sex couples.”  The big difference between the declaration and the clarification is that the first document proposed a practice, while the second is responding to objections to the proposal. The clarification therefore has a defensive tone that is absent from the declaration. While the clarification insists that Church leaders cannot reject the declaration outright, it makes several concessions. It goes as far as saying that bishops may discern that it is not prudent to introduce the blessings in their dioceses, as long as they are not presenting “a total or definitive denial of this path that is proposed to priests.” The clarification even appears to seek to offer a way out to bishops’ conferences that have expressed resolute opposition to the declaration, suggesting that after discerning that such blessings are not possible, they should “recommend the need for study and discernment.” Another major difference between the declaration and the clarification is that the second text offers a more detailed description of a model blessing, right down to suggesting specific wording and indicating that it should last “about 10 or 15 seconds.” The text also offers the seemingly important direction that blessings should not occur “in a prominent place within a sacred building, or in front of an altar,” though it doesn’t say whether clergy will face any consequences for ignoring the stipulation. 6. Chinese bishop reportedly arrested after protesting Communist changes in diocese, By Michelle La Rosa, The Pillar, January 4, 2023, 4:31 PM A Chinese bishop has reportedly been arrested after objecting to decisions made by a communist-sponsored leader in his diocese without his approval. Bishop Peter Shao Zhumin of Wenzhou was arrested Jan. 2, according to Asia News. The 61-year-old bishop is not recognized by the Chinese government, because he has refused to register with the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association (CPCA), the state-sponsored Communist church. The Chinese government has instead named Fr. Ma Xianshi, a member of the CPCA, as the head of the diocese. Shao has been routinely detained around holidays, in order to block him from celebrating Mass on major liturgical feasts. In this case, however, he was taken into custody over Christmas, but arrested a week later, after he penned a letter objecting to changes in the diocese made by Fr. Ma while he was away.  China has become increasingly bold in naming new appointments for mainland diocesan bishops without prior Vatican authorization. In April 2023, Bishop Joseph Shen Bin of Haimen was installed as the new bishop of Shanghai – a unilateral decision by Beijing, which the Holy See said it only learned about through media reports. Three months later, the Holy See announced that Pope Francis had formally recognized the transfer, prompting concerns about China’s apparent success in forcing the pope’s hand, as well as questions about the future of the Vatican-China deal, which is set to expire this October.   Even more concerning for the Vatican, Beijing has also moved to create its own dioceses, outside of Church recognition, and effectively suppress others erected by the Holy See in the process. Meanwhile, the Chinese government has touted the success of its sinicization process at incorporating the Church into communist Chinese society.   Despite the continued actions of the mainland government to appoint its own candidates for bishops, erect new dioceses, and detail clergy who refuse to acknowledge the state’s supremacy in Church affairs, the Vatican has indicated its agreement with the Communist government is likely to be renewed. 7. ‘Fiducia Supplicans’ 2.0, The Jan. 4 press release on the Dec. 18 declaration from the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith shows its prefect distancing himself from his own document., By Father Raymond J. de Souza, National Catholic Register, January 4, 2023, Opinion  No prefect has ever conducted himself quite like Cardinal Fernández now does, frantically trying to contain the fractures opened up by Fiducia Supplicans On Dec. 18, Fiducia Supplicans was released by the DDF. The document  declared that “what has been said in this Declaration regarding the blessings of same-sex couples is sufficient” and thus “no further responses should be expected about possible ways to regulate details or practicalities regarding blessings of this type.” The prefect then began a flurry of interviews offering commentary upon his own work. That didn’t seem to do the trick, as bishops all over the world expressed their extreme dismay.  So, on Jan. 4, Cardinal Fernández issued a sort of Fiducia Supplicans 2.0, a lengthy “press release” about the declaration. This particular “no further response” was almost half as long as the original document. The status of Fiducia Supplicans is a “declaration” of the DDF, issued with papal approval, thereby making it part of the ordinary papal magisterium. In 2021, another DDF document, styled a responsum, was also issued with papal approval. Helpfully, for comparative purposes, it addressed the same subject, namely blessings for same-sex couples. Unhelpfully for the current moment, it taught the complete opposite, flatly prohibiting what Fiducia Supplicans permits. So while “no further responses” were promised, Fiducia Supplicans always invited further elaboration. Having contradicted the same Pope, on the same subject, at the same level of magisterial authority, something more would have to be said. Hence cometh the “press release” from the prefect. The release is not a magisterial document at all. It is not a declaration, nor a responsum, not even an airborne papal press conference. It has no authority whatsoever. While certainly of interest as to the mind of the prefect, it cannot officially clarify the teaching of Fiducia Supplicans; it cannot resolve the contradictions and confusions. Only another DDF document could do that, which itself would be put alongside Fiducia Supplicans (2023) and the responsum (2021).   Most remarkably, it is not a blessing at all. It is a prayer said for “two people” or a “couple,” followed by an individual blessing for each of them. For all the talk about a new understanding of blessings in Fiducia Supplicans, Cardinal Fernández does not bless in this model prayer and then blesses the individuals in the customary manner from time immemorial. If that is what Cardinal Fernández had in mind all along, there would be no need for Fiducia Supplicans at all. The 2021 responsum envisioned the same thing. The press release, for this week at least, is the prefect distancing himself from his own document. 8. Colorado Catholic preschools argue in federal court that state discriminates against them, By Peter Pinedo, Catholic News Agency, January 4, 2023, 12:30 PM A federal judge heard testimony this week in a trial that will decide whether the state of Colorado can exclude Catholic schools from participating in its universal preschool program. The Archdiocese of Denver, along with two Catholic preschools, is taking legal action against the state, contending that the program is unconstitutional as it discriminates against Catholic schools by preventing them from participating. Nick Reaves, an attorney with the religious liberty law firm Becket, which is representing the archdiocese, told CNA that “by excluding religious preschools from its universal preschool program, Colorado is shutting out hundreds of families, including low-income and minority families, who want a faith-based education for their children.” The suit, which began on Tuesday, was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado in August 2023. Colorado’s universal preschool program, created in 2022, offers eligible families at least 15 hours per week of free preschool for every participating child, according to the program website. 9. Ohio Republicans plan to override DeWine veto of bill banning sex changes for kids, By Tyler Arnold, Catholic News Agency, January 4, 2023, 5:40 PM A federal judge heard testimony this week in a trial that will decide whether the state of Colorado can exclude Catholic schools from participating in its universal preschool program. Republican lawmakers in Ohio plan to override Gov. Mike DeWine’s veto of a bill that would prevent doctors from performing transgender surgeries and providing gender transition drugs to children. The legislation would prohibit all “gender reassignment surgery” performed on minors and prohibit puberty-blocking drugs for children. DeWine, a Republican and a Catholic, broke from his party and vetoed the bill but could face an attempt at a veto override as early as next week. House leadership moved up the start date of their next session to Wednesday, Jan. 10, to consider a vote. The Senate is scheduled to meet on Jan. 24 unless the chamber’s leadership also moves up the date.

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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