1. Pope: Reject “god of money,” focus on serving others.

By Associated Press, January 6, 2020, 5:35 AM

Pope Francis is advising people to reject “the god of money” as well as of that consumerism, pleasure, success and self.

Francis in his homily in St. Peter’s Basilica Monday to mark the Feast of the Epiphany, encouraged people to focus on serving others, not themselves.


2. Security Vowed for Religious Institutions: Cuomo says $45 million available for protection as thousands protest anti-Semitic attacks.

By Jimmy Vielkind, The Wall Street Journal, January 6, 2020, Pg. A10

New York state will make an additional $45 million available for security at religious schools and institutions, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Sunday during a solidarity march organized by Jewish leaders in response to anti-Semitic attacks.

Religious schools, community centers, day camps and museums are eligible to apply for up to $50,000 to pay for additional security training, cameras, and other measures, the state said.


3. After Soleimani assassination, Pope warns war ‘brings only death and destruction.

By Elise Harris, Crux, January 5, 2020

Days after the assassination of Iranian General Qasem Soleimani by the United States, Pope Francis issued an appeal for peace and calm Sunday amid what he said is an “air of tension” throughout the world.

“In many parts of the world there is a terrible air of tension,” the pope said in his Jan. 5 noontime Angelus address, adding, “War brings only death and destruction.”

“I call on all parties to keep the flame of dialogue and self-control burning, and to ward off any shadow of enmity,” he said.


4. Ecological sin: Idea of updating catechism sparks debate.

By Junno Arocho Esteves, Catholic News Service, January 5, 2020

Pope Francis’s announcement that the Catechism of the Catholic Church would be updated to include a definition of “ecological sin” sent Catholic Twitter into a frenzy.

Reactions ranged from praise for how seriously the Church was taking the obligation to care for creation to cynicism or even outrage over the Church’s involvement in what many considered to be a highly politicized issue.

Ecological sin was discussed at length during Synod of Bishops for the Amazon in October, and several members of the synod called on the Church to deepen its theology in a way that would help people recognize such sins.

In their final document, synod members proposed that the Church define ecological sin as “an act of commission or omission against God, against one’s neighbor, the community and the environment.”

Nearly three weeks after the synod, Francis told members of the International Association of Penal Law that there were plans to include a definition of ecological sin in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.


5. Forget the Swiss — How about the Vatican to broker US/Iran relations?

By John L. Allen Jr., Crux, January 5, 2020

Famously, the United States and Iran haven’t had diplomatic relations since they were cut off in 1980 amid the hostage crisis. Officially the two countries communicate through the Swiss embassy in Tehran, and Swiss officials were dutifully summoned Friday to hear Iran’s protest of the killing of General Qasem Soleimani, describing it as a “blatant example of American state terrorism.”

Given that Washington and Tehran are unlikely to restore direct ties right now, and that communication between the two sides is nonetheless essential if a regional conflagration is to be prevented, the question arises as to which player on the global stage is best positioned to broker a dialogue that might allow cooler heads to prevail.

As counterintuitive as it may seem, there’s a case to be made that the Vatican might be a good choice.

To begin with, the Vatican’s diplomatic relationship with Iran dates to 1954, a full three decades before formal ties with the U.S. were launched under President Ronald Reagan in 1984. Post-revolutionary Iranian leaders have been especially anxious to trumpet their entrée in the Vatican, as a way of counteracting Washington’s efforts to depict Iran as a pariah state. Iran currently has more diplomats accredited to the Vatican than any country in the world other than the Dominican Republic, which is a clear sign of how seriously they take the relationship.

Of late, Iran has been appreciative of the Vatican’s line on Syria, which is not premised on regime change by removing President Bashar al-Assad from power. Further, the Vatican sees Iran as key to any solution in Syria, including stronger protections for Syria’s Christian minority, and so treats the country and its leaders with a deference they often don’t get from other Western institutions.

In addition, the Vatican is generally opposed to economic sanctions as a form of political leverage, fearing their consequences fall mostly on innocent civilians. That’s why the Vatican always has opposed the U.S. embargo on Cuba, for example, and why, on the same principle, it’s never endorsed U.S.-backed sanctions on Iran over violations of various nuclear accords or other disputes.

Ironically enough, the Vatican under Pope Francis might actually have a harder time being seen as a fair broker by Washington than Tehran, given the way Francis and his team have made clear their distaste for the sort of American religious conservatives who make up an important chunk of President Donald Trump’s electoral base.

On the other hand, there are a number of U.S. Catholic leaders with influence in the Trump administration. In any event, given that Islamic societies historically have seen the Vatican as the chaplain of the West, the impression that Francis isn’t in the bag for the White House could actually be an asset in this situation.

Finally, there’s an underlying reason why the Vatican can engage Tehran in a way that the Swiss or other diplomatic players simply can’t, and it can be expressed in one word: God.

At the leadership level, Iran is a theocracy, and even if it’s certainly adept at hard-nosed realpolitik, the thought world of its leadership class is nevertheless suffused with religious concepts and vocabulary. The Vatican is the lone serious global player that can engage Iran at that level and be taken seriously.

What might a papal initiative in this moment of crisis look like?

To begin, Francis could write personally to both Trump and Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, much like the letters Francis dispatched in 2014 to Cuban leader Raul Castro and then-U.S. President Barack Obama that helped pave the way for restoring diplomatic relations between Havana and Washington.

In terms of something more dramatic, Francis could steal a page from St. John Paul II’s playbook and dispatch personal emissaries to both Tehran and Washington, urging them to show restraint, just as the Polish pope did with Baghdad and Washington in 2003 in an effort to prevent war in Iraq. Obviously that effort failed, but the fact it didn’t work once doesn’t mean it never will.

Even bolder, Francis could announce his intention to visit the Middle East, with the idea being to convene Iranian and U.S. officials along with other regional players in an effort to promote dialogue and peaceful solutions.


6. Judge rules that doctors can take baby off life support against mother’s wishes.

By Marisa Iati, The Washington Post, January 3, 2029, 7:58 PM

The infant’s health-care team at Cook Children’s Medical Center in Fort Worth says that every medical procedure it performs on her causes only more suffering and that she should be allowed to die naturally and peacefully. Her mother is begging for her daughter to be kept alive.

The emotionally charged decision about Tinslee’s fate fell to a Tarrant County district court judge, who on Thursday ruled in favor of the hospital.

The girl’s mother, Trinity Lewis, appealed Judge Sandee Bryan Marion’s denial of an injunction. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) said Friday that a Fort Worth appeals court had granted Lewis emergency relief while the legal issue plays out.

“I am heartbroken over today’s decision because the judge basically said Tinslee’s life is NOT worth living,” Lewis said in a statement released by Texas Right to Life, an antiabortion group that has been advocating for Lewis. “I feel frustrated because anyone in that courtroom would want more time just like I do if Tinslee were their baby.”

While the battle over how long Tinslee will be kept alive plays out in the legal sphere, the case also evokes ethical questions of who should get to decide what kind of medical treatment is or is not in the best interest of a child too young to speak for herself. The saga contains echoes of the debate over Charlie Gard, a terminally ill British infant who died in 2017 after an international controversy over whether he should remain on a ventilator.


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.
Subscribe to the TCA podcast!
“Conversations with Consequences” is a new audio program from The Catholic Association. We’ll bring you thoughtful dialogue with the leading thinkers of our time on the most consequential issues of our day. Subscribe today or listen online and enjoy our entertaining and informative weekly episodes.