1. Pope calls for universal ban on surrogacy in global roundup of threats to peace and human dignity, By Nicole Winfield, Associated Press, January 8, 2024, 6:33 AM Pope Francis called Monday for a universal ban on the “despicable” practice of surrogate motherhood, as he included the “commercialization” of pregnancy in an annual speech listing threats to global peace and human dignity. In a foreign policy address to ambassadors accredited to the Holy See, Francis lamented that 2024 had dawned at a time in history in which peace is “increasingly threatened, weakened and in some part lost.” Citing Russia’s war in Ukraine, the Israel-Hamas war, migration, climate crises and the “immoral” production of nuclear and conventional weapons, Francis delivered a lengthy laundry list of the ills afflicting humanity and the increasing violation of international humanitarian law that allows them.  https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/2024/01/08/pope-surrogacy-vatican-russia-israel-ukraine/9810f932-ae0f-11ee-9a32-5c9e6aa28b3b_story.html__________________________________________________________ 2. Horror in Nigeria: Christians stoned, slaughtered as world looks the other way, By Billy Hallowell, The Washington Times, January 8, 2024, Opinion As people around the world jovially celebrated the birth of Jesus, sang carols, exchanged gifts and relished in the sights and sounds of the season, Christians in Nigeria were embroiled in an unimaginably hellish scenario. During a Christmas Eve killing spree, nomadic herders reportedly used guns and machetes to slaughter about 140 people in the central Plateau State. The elongated assault reportedly left victims to fend for themselves, as it took hours for authorities to arrive on the scene and offer appropriate assistance.  The reports of looting, setting homes ablaze and killing expose a brutal reality: Nigeria is a nightmarish perdition for Christians simply seeking to live their lives. But the problem isn’t new. Jeff King, president of persecution watchdog International Christian Concern, recently told me how dire circumstances have raged over the past two decades.  The State Department under former President Donald Trump had added Nigeria to the Countries of Particular Concern list in 2020, signaling an increased unease over the crises unfolding there. But the Biden administration removed Nigeria and has since kept the nation off its list of countries rife with religious freedom violations.  It’s far past time for America to place Nigeria back on the Countries of Particular Concern list and to vocally voice horror — and place pressure — on the nation’s officials. As for the rest of us, we must turn to advocacy and prayer, as our Nigerian brothers and sisters desperately need it. Billy Hallowell is a digital TV host and interviewer for Faithwire and CBN News and the co-host of CBN’s “Quick Start Podcast.” Mr. Hallowell is the author of four books. https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2024/jan/3/horror-in-nigeria-christians-stoned-slaughtered-as/__________________________________________________________ 3. ‘We’ve Got a Big Mess Here,’ While US politicians of all stripes maneuver to score points for their side on the humanitarian disaster that is immigration, the Catholic Church’s perspective stands out and is more sensible than many people realize., By National Catholic Register, January 8, 2024, Editorial Evidently, Joe Biden is not taking Cardinal Timothy Dolan’s phone calls about the nation’s worsening migrant crisis, but perhaps he should. If nothing else, the Catholic president who vowed to make enforcement of U.S. immigration laws more humane should enlist the New York cardinal’s prayer support to help him find a way out of the humanitarian disaster his administration has negligently allowed to unfold at our southern border. There were more than 2.3 border patrol “encounters” at the southern border in fiscal year 2023, and 3.2 million nationwide, a staggering tally that approaches the number of annual U.S. births. This past December alone saw more than 300,000 migrant encounters at the southern border. That’s an average of 10,000 per day and the highest monthly total ever recorded.  The Catholic Church’s perspective on immigration is more sensible than many people realize. In recent years, Pope Francis has generated enormous international media coverage for his passionate defense of the human rights of migrants now on the move in historic numbers all over the world. But Francis and his recent predecessors all recognize that nations have the right and duty to regulate their borders. As Pope John Paul II acknowledged in 2001, “highly developed countries are not always able to assimilate all those who emigrate,” adding that allowing immigration to take place indiscriminately “may do harm and be detrimental to the common good of the community that receives the migrant.” As U.S. citizens, it’s not too much to expect that every single person who comes to live in our country has done so by lawful means, has undergone a thorough background check, and is prepared to contribute to society in a positive way. Yet in the current chaos, authorities have lost control over the drug traffickers, human traffickers, potential terrorists and other bad actors who are seizing the opportunity to slip into the country. Our Church has important insights to share about something else it considers a fundamental right: the right to remain in one’s country. The fact that so many people “are forced to migrate demands a careful consideration of the causes of contemporary migration,” the Vatican’s Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development said in a communique last year. “The right to remain is older, more deeply rooted and broader than the right to migrate. It includes the possibility of sharing in the common good, the right to live in dignity and to have access to sustainable development,” the dicastery said. “All of these rights should be effectively guaranteed in the nations of origin through a real exercise of shared responsibility on the part of the international community.” The Biden administration ought to prioritize this pro-active approach in its foreign policies, rather than spending so much money and effort exporting a radical pro-abortion, pro-LGBTQ agenda abroad.  https://www.ncregister.com/commentaries/we-ve-got-a-big-mess-here__________________________________________________________ 4. Pope Francis baptizes babies one by one in an annual ceremony at the Sistine Chapel, By Associated Press, January 7, 2024, 5:21 AM Pope Francis baptized 16 babies in the Sistine Chapel on Sunday under the ceiling frescoed by Michelangelo, in what has become an annual tradition near the end of the Christmas holiday period at the Vatican. Among the babies who were carried by parents to the pontiff were a boy and girl who are twins.  https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2024/01/07/pope-francis-baptism-babies-sistine-vatican/8579b472-ad46-11ee-9a32-5c9e6aa28b3b_story.html__________________________________________________________ 5. How to deal with same-sex unions? It’s a question fracturing major Christian denominations, By David Crary, Associated Press, January 7, 2024, 8:17 AM Catholics around the world are sharply divided by the Vatican’s recent declaration giving priests more leeway to bless same-sex couples. Supporters of LGBTQ inclusion welcome the move; some conservative bishops assail the new policy as a betrayal of the church’s condemnation of sexual relations between gay or lesbian partners. Strikingly, the flare-up of debate in Catholic ranks coincides with developments in two other international Christian denominations — the global Anglican Communion and the United Methodist Church — that are fracturing over differences in LGBTQ-related policies.  Ryan Burge, a political science professor at Eastern Illinois University and pastor of an American Baptist church, says it’s become increasingly difficult for Christian denominations to fully accommodate clergy and congregations with opposing views on same-sex relationships, particularly as such marriages have become legal in much of Europe and the Western Hemisphere.  For global denominations — notably Catholics, Anglicans and United Methodists — Burge sees another source of tension: Some of their biggest growth in recent decades has been in socially conservative African countries where same-sex relationships are taboo.  A slow-motion breakup is underway in the United Methodist Church. A few years ago, it was the third-largest denomination in the United States, but a quarter of U.S. congregations have recently received permission to leave over disputes involving LGBTQ-related policies.  https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/2024/01/07/lgbtq-samesex-unions-christianity-catholic-anglican-methodist/229b3b78-ad5f-11ee-9a32-5c9e6aa28b3b_story.html__________________________________________________________ 6. Pope Francis warns against ideological splits in the Church, says focus on the poor, not ‘theory’, By Frances D’Emilio, Associated Press, January 6, 2024, 6:35 AM Amid resistance to some Vatican policy by more conservative factions of the Catholic church, Pope Francis on Saturday cautioned the faithful against fracturing into groups “based on our own ideas.” He issued the call to abandon “ecclesiastical ideologies” in his homily in St. Peter’s Basilica during Epiphany Day Mass, the last major Christmas season holiday.Francis also warned against “basking in some elegant religious theory” instead of finding God in the faces of the poor. Last month, Francis gave permission for priests to bless couples outside of marriage, including same-sex relationships, as long as the blessing was pastoral and not liturgical or part of some religious rite.  https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2024/01/06/pope-francis-epiphany-vatican/33587728-ac83-11ee-bc8c-7319480da4f9_story.html__________________________________________________________ 7. Vatican concludes former Minnesota archbishop acted imprudently but committed no crimes, By Steve Karnowski, Associated Press, January 5, 2024, 5:28 PM A lengthy Vatican investigation into misconduct allegations against Archbishop John Nienstedt, the former leader of the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis, concluded that he took “imprudent” actions but did not violate church law, the archdiocese announced Friday. However, the archdiocese also said Pope Francis barred Nienstedt from any public ministry following the investigation.  Nienstedt has consistently denied all misconduct allegations leveled against him, insisting that he has remained celibate, and said that he welcomed the investigation. But Hebda in 2018 barred Nienstedt from celebrating Mass and other public ministry in the St. Paul-based archdiocese until the allegations were resolved. On Friday, Hebda said in a statement that he was recently informed that the investigation was complete — the Vatican’s Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, which is responsible for enforcing sexual morality, concluded that available evidence doesn’t support violations of church law, so any such allegations against him were “unfounded.”  Hebda’s statement did not say what Nienstedt’s “imprudent” actions were. The spokesman said he couldn’t provide details, and Vatican press officials did not immediately respond to emails seeking elaboration. Nienstedt said in a statement that he has “fully cooperated” with all investigations into allegations against him and answered every question honestly and to the best of his recollection. He said he has asked the Holy See to clarify the “imprudent” actions he allegedly committed.  https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/2024/01/05/catholic-church-archbishop-nienstedt-priest-abuse/1829294c-ac0c-11ee-bc8c-7319480da4f9_story.html__________________________________________________________ 8. Supreme Court allows Idaho to enforce its strict abortion ban, even in medical emergencies, By Mark Sherman, Associated Press, January 5, 2024, 9:41 PM The Supreme Court on Friday allowed Idaho to enforce its strict abortion ban, even in medical emergencies, while a legal fight continues. The justices said they would hear arguments in April and put on hold a lower court ruling that had blocked the Idaho law in hospital emergencies, based on a lawsuit filed by the Biden administration. The Idaho case gives the court its second major abortion dispute since the justices in 2022 overturned Roe v. Wade and allowed states to severely restrict or ban abortion. The court also in the coming months is hearing a challenge to the Food and Drug Administration’s rules for obtaining mifepristone, one of two medications used in the most common method of abortion in the United States. In the case over hospital emergencies, the Biden administration has argued that hospitals that receive Medicare funds are required by federal law to provide emergency care, potentially including abortion, no matter if there’s a state law banning abortion. The administration issued guidance about the federal law, the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act, or EMTALA, two weeks after the high court ruling in 2022. The Democratic administration sued Idaho a month later.  The state argued that the administration was misusing a law intended to prevent hospitals from dumping patients and imposing “a federal abortion mandate” on states. “EMTALA says nothing about abortion,” Idaho Attorney General Raul Labrador told the court in a brief.  https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2024/01/05/supreme-court-abortion-medical-emergencies-idaho/1e333df4-ac17-11ee-bc8c-7319480da4f9_story.html__________________________________________________________ 9. Abortion initiative hits milestone for getting in front of Florida voters, By Mike Schneider, Associated Press, January 5, 2024, 2:02 PM petition initiative that would enshrine abortion rights in the Florida constitution on Friday reached the necessary number of verified signatures to qualify for the 2024 ballot, officials said. More than 911,000 signatures have been verified, according to the Florida Division of Elections, surpassing the more than 891,500 petition signatures required by the state to put a ballot initiative before voters.  https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2024/01/05/florida-abortion-ballot-elections/03032310-abfd-11ee-bc8c-7319480da4f9_story.html__________________________________________________________ 10. French bishops instruct priests to refrain from blessing homosexual couples, By Peter Pinedo, Catholic News Agency, January 5, 2024, 2:26 PM Nine bishops from France have instructed priests in their dioceses that they may bless homosexual individuals but should refrain from blessing same-sex couples, following new Vatican guidelines that permit nonliturgical pastoral blessings of homosexual couples. The Archdiocese of Rennes, which is led by Archbishop Pierre d’Ornellas, issued the statement on Jan. 1 on behalf of the bishops from the Ecclesiastical Province of Rennes. “In our society where marriage has been trivialized by becoming a notion of civil law which ignores the founding specificity of sexual difference, we have the mission to affirm in a prophetic way,” the bishops said, “the great beauty of the design of God who created the human being, man and woman.”  “In this context,” the statement continued, “it is therefore right, as the declaration underlines, not to contribute to creating ‘confusion’ (p. 4, 5, 30, 31, 39) or ‘scandal’ (p. 30, 39). This is why it is appropriate to bless spontaneously, individually, each of the two people forming a couple, whatever their sexual orientation, who ask God’s blessing with humility and with the desire to conform more and more to his holy will.”  https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/256452/french-bishops-instruct-priests-to-refrain-from-blessing-homosexual-couples__________________________________________________________ 11. St. John Neumann, promoter of Catholic education in the U.S., is celebrated today, By Catholic News Agency, January 5, 2024, 4:40 PM Every Jan. 5 the Church celebrates the feast of St. John Neumann, Redemptorist missionary, fourth bishop of the city of Philadelphia, and organizer of the first Catholic education network in the U.S. John Nepomucene Neumann was born in Bohemia, now the Czech Republic, in 1811. He attended school in Budweis and years later, in 1831, entered the seminary in that same city. Upon completing his preparation for the priesthood, he presented himself to his diocese but suffered an unexpected setback. The local bishop had fallen ill and priestly ordinations in his diocese were suspended until further notice. Neumann, eager to serve the Lord, wrote letters to the bishops of the neighboring dioceses, but none of them wanted to accept him. Despite the obstacles, the saint was not discouraged. To earn his living, he went to work in a factory where he met a few Americans from whom he learned some English. Later, he contacted some bishops in the United States. Neumann had a missionary soul and was ready to move to America.  Neumann was then ordained bishop of Philadelphia, and from that city he organized the diocesan system of Catholic schools, becoming a great promoter of religious education in the country. He also founded the congregation of the Sisters of the Third Order of St. Francis, dedicated to teaching in schools, and was the promoter of the construction of more than 80 churches throughout the country.  Neumman was a simple man, short in stature and reportedly good-natured. Although he never had robust health, he carried out great pastoral and literary activity. He wrote many articles in magazines and newspapers, and published two catechisms and a history of the Bible for school children.  Once, in one of his articles, he wrote: “I have never regretted having dedicated myself to the mission in America.” On Jan. 5, 1860, when he was just 48 years old, he suddenly collapsed in the street and went home to the Lord. He was beatified in 1963 and canonized in 1977 by Pope Paul VI. https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/256455/st-john-neumann-promoter-of-catholic-education-in-the-us-is-celebrated-today__________________________________________________________ 12. Pope Francis: Catholic news media can’t be ‘neutral’ in the message they convey, By Andrés Henríquez, Catholic News Agency, January 5, 2024, 6:30 PM Pope Francis said people working in Catholic media must not refrain from being involved in the evangelizing mission of the Church and that, therefore, “they cannot remain ‘neutral’ with respect to the message they convey.” The pontiff made his remarks at a Jan. 4 audience with a delegation from the Society of Catholic Publicists of Germany on the 75th anniversary of its foundation. According to Vatican News, the Holy Father also explained that “interreligious dialogue, ecumenism, and the defense of peace, freedom, and human dignity” should be the goals of communication professionals, especially if they are Catholic. “How many conflicts today, instead of being extinguished by dialogue, are fueled by fake news or inflammatory statements in the media! That’s why it’s all the more important that you, strong in your Christian roots and in living the faith daily, ‘demilitarized’ in your heart by the Gospel, support the disarmament of language,” the pope said in his discourse, which he gave in writing to the delegation.   https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/256458/pope-francis-catholic-news-media-can-t-be-neutral-in-the-message-they-convey__________________________________________________________ 13. Amid row over same-sex blessings, Pope laments ‘splitting into groups’ in the Church, By Elise Ann Allen, Crux, January 5, 2024 Pope Francis on the feast of the Epiphany lamented the sharp division among Catholics of differing views, saying believers must imitate the three wise men in putting God at the center of their lives, rather than their own ideas of the faith. Speaking to attendees of his Jan. 6 Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica, the pope said that as members of the church, “instead of splitting into groups based on our own ideas, we are called to put God back at the center.” “We need to abandon ecclesial ideologies to find the meaning of holy mother church, the ecclesial attitude. Ecclesial ideologies no, ecclesial vocation yes,” he said, saying, “The Lord, not our own ideas or our own projects,” must be the focus. “Let us set out anew from God; let us seek from him the courage not to lose heart in the face of difficulties, the strength to surmount all obstacles, the joy to live in harmonious communion,” he said.  https://cruxnow.com/vatican/2024/01/amid-row-over-same-sex-blessings-pope-laments-splitting-into-groups-in-the-church__________________________________________________________

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.