1. Vatican’s doctrine chief is raising eyebrows over his 1998 book that graphically describes orgasms, By Nicole Winfield, Associated Press, January 9, 2024, 7:20 AM The Vatican’s new doctrine chief who is already under fire from entire bishops conferences for his approval of blessings for same-sex couples, is now raising eyebrows over a book he wrote as a young priest describing orgasms in graphic terms. The out-of-print, Spanish-language book penned by now-Cardinal Victor Manuel Fernandez, entitled “The Mystical Passion: Spirituality and Sensuality,” is similar in tone to another Fernandez book that sparked scandal soon after he was appointed, “Heal Me With Your Mouth. The Art of Kissing.” Neither title was included in the list of publications the Vatican provided when Pope Francis named Fernandez as prefect of the Vatican’s Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith and gave him marching orders to radically change the office’s course. The Argentine theologian had been known as Francis’ theological ghostwriter and has already shaken up the Catholic Church with a flurry of official decrees on hot-button issues such as allowing transgender people to serve as godparents. “The Mystical Passion,” published in Mexico in 1998, is a short expose about mystical-sensual experiences with God. In its final chapters, Fernandez delves into orgasms, including graphic descriptions of male and female sexual anatomy and his commentary about sexual desire, pornography, sexual satisfaction and domination, and the role of pleasure in God’s mystical plan.  In comments to Crux, an online Catholic website, Fernandez said he had written “The Mystical Passion” after having conversations with young couples who wanted to better understand their relationships. It was a similar comment he gave in explaining why he wrote “Heal Me With Your Mouth.”  https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/2024/01/09/vatican-doctrine-samesex-fernandez-pope/775dc5b4-aee9-11ee-9a32-5c9e6aa28b3b_story.html__________________________________________________________ 2. Filipino Catholics pray for Mideast peace in massive procession venerating a black statue of Jesus, By Jim Gomez, Joeal Calupitan And Aaron Favila, Associated Press, January 9, 2024, 7:17 AM A massive crowd of mostly barefoot Catholic worshippers marched Tuesday in an annual procession in the Philippines’ capital that paraded a centuries-old black statue of Jesus. Many said they prayed for peace in the Middle East, where tens of thousands of Filipinos work, as fears rise of a spread of the Israel-Hamas war, now in its fourth month. Considered a major annual Catholic event in Asia, the procession was cancelled during the coronavirus pandemic and last year, after pandemic restrictions eased, the statue was not paraded to discourage larger crowds. The procession on Tuesday took 15 hours and the crowd of devotees — many in maroon shirts imprinted with the image of the Black Nazarene — at one point swelled to more than 2 million, according to a police estimate.  Police were on high alert during the event in Manila’s Quiapo district, following a Dec. 3 bombing that killed four people and wounded dozens of Catholic worshippers attending Mass at a university in the southern Philippines. President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. blamed “foreign terrorists” for the attack, which sparked a security alarm.  https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2024/01/09/philippines-black-nazarene-procession/af941694-aec7-11ee-9a32-5c9e6aa28b3b_story.html__________________________________________________________ 3. Malta prelate, Vatican official says priests should be allowed to be married, By Charles Collins, Crux, January 9, 2024 Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta, who also serves as an adjunct secretary of the Holy See’s Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, says the Catholic Church has lost “good priests just because they chose marriage.” Speaking to the Times of Malta, the archbishop said, “Why should we lose a young man who would have made a fine priest, just because he wanted to get married?” Scicluna said priestly celibacy was optional for the first millennium of the Church’s existence, “and it should become optional again.”  https://cruxnow.com/church-in-europe/2024/01/malta-prelate-vatican-official-says-priests-should-be-allowed-to-be-married__________________________________________________________ 4. Judge dismisses Notre Dame professor’s defamation lawsuit against student newspaper, By Associated Press, January 8, 2024, 6:25 PM A judge Monday dismissed a University of Notre Dame’s professor’s defamation lawsuit against a student-run publication over news coverage of her abortion-rights advocacy. St. Joseph County Superior Court Senior Judge Steven David found that sociology professor Tamara Kay’s assertions that The Irish Rover’s coverage of her was false and defamatory were unfounded. “The Court concludes that Dr. Kay does not present any evidence that shows that The Irish Rover had any doubts about the truth of their statements before they were published. By failing to present such evidence, the Court concludes that Dr. Kay’s defamation claim fails as a matter of law,” David’s ruling said.  https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/2024/01/08/notre-dame-professor-defamation-lawsuit-dismissed/2e915858-ae7d-11ee-9a32-5c9e6aa28b3b_story.html__________________________________________________________ 5. More women join challenge to Tennessee’s abortion ban law, By Kimberlee Kruesi, Associated Press, January 8, 2024, 4:06 PM More women on Monday joined a Tennessee lawsuit challenging the state’s broad abortion ban that went into effect shortly after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in 2022. The legal challenge is part of a handful of lawsuits filed across the U.S. in Republican-dominant states seeking clarity on the circumstances that qualify patients to legally receive an abortion. Here is the latest on what’s going on in Tennessee and where many of the lawsuits stand. On Monday, four more women joined the legal battle in Tennessee that first was filed in September— bringing the total of plaintiffs suing over the state’s abortion ban to nine, including two doctors.  https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/2024/01/08/abortion-tennessee-lawsuit/b718af76-ae5c-11ee-9a32-5c9e6aa28b3b_story.html__________________________________________________________ 6. Florida prosecutor fighting DeSantis over suspension says he won’t seek re-election, By Associated Press, Associated Press, January 8, 2024, 12:29 PM An elected prosecutor in Florida who was suspended by Gov. Ron DeSantis after he signed a statement opposing abortion prosecutions said Monday that he won’t seek reelection because he believes the Florida governor would suspend him again if he won the race. Andrew Warren said in a video posted to social media that he still planned to continue his legal battle challenging his suspension as state attorney in the Tampa area even if he won’t seek re-election. At the time of the suspension in 2022, DeSantis, who is running for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination, accused Warren of neglect of duty and incompetence after the Democratic state attorney signed statements, along with other prosecutors across the U.S., opposing criminal charges against abortion providers or women seeking abortions. Warren also said he wouldn’t prosecute people for providing gender-affirming health care, and his office’s policies didn’t charge people with some minor crimes.  https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2024/01/08/desantis-andrew-warren-florida-state-attorney/7b904f60-ae4b-11ee-9a32-5c9e6aa28b3b_story.html__________________________________________________________ 7. 25 year-old book by Vatican doctrinal czar surfaces on God and orgasms, By Elise Ann Allen, Crux, January 8, 2024 In a 25-year-old book written by Cardinal Víctor Manuel Fernández that has resurfaced amid disputes over his recent approval of non-liturgical blessing of same-sex couples, the Argentine prelate offers readers an in-depth spiritual reflection on human sexuality and the meaning of orgasms. Titled La pasión mística: espiritualidad y sensualidad, meaning, “Mystical passion: spirituality and sensuality,” the book was published in 1998 and was written by then-Father Víctor Manuel Fernández, who is now prefect of the Vatican’s Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith (DDF).  Speaking to Crux, Fernández said “Mystical Passion” is a book he wrote while still young and is one “that I certainly would not write now.” “Long after that book I wrote much more serious ones like, ‘The Healing Force of Mysticism,’ and ‘The Transforming Force of Mysticism,’” he said.  https://cruxnow.com/vatican/2024/01/25-year-old-book-by-vatican-doctrinal-czar-surfaces-on-god-and-orgasms__________________________________________________________ 8. Cardinal Sarah speaks out against clergy blessing same-sex unions, By Kate Quiñones, Catholic News Agency, January 8, 2024, 5:45 PM Cardinal Robert Sarah responded to the controversial Vatican declaration that allows clergy to bless same-sex couples in certain scenarios by instructing the faithful to “respond to confusion with the word of God” in a Jan. 6 reflection. “We do not oppose Pope Francis, but we firmly and radically oppose a heresy that seriously undermines the Church, the Body of Christ, because it is contrary to the Catholic faith and Tradition,” Sarah wrote in the reflection that he shared with Italian blog Settimo Cielo.  Sarah, 78, is a Guinean prelate who served as prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments from 2014 to 2021. “The truth is the first of the mercies that Jesus offers to the sinner,” he wrote.  While bishops globally are divided on the declaration, many Catholic bishops across Africa have publicly rejected the controversial Fiducia Supplicans. Several bishops’ conferences in Africa asked priests to refrain from offering same-sex blessings in recent weeks, while other bishops instructed the clergy in their diocese to not give blessings to same-sex couples. In his address, Sarah encouraged “every bishop to do the same” as the episcopal conferences in Cameroon, Chad, and Nigeria.  “The Church of Africa is the voice of the poor, the simple, and the small,” Sarah wrote, noting that it has to proclaim the Gospel to Western Christians who “believe themselves to be evolved, modern and wise of the wisdom of the world.” “It is therefore not surprising that the bishops of Africa, in their poverty, are today the heralds of this divine truth in the face of the power and wealth of some episcopates of the West,” he added. https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/256481/cardinal-sarah-speaks-out-against-clergy-blessing-same-sex-unions__________________________________________________________ 9. Pope Francis’ Informality as a System, This informality puts not only this pope but the papacy and the Church at a number of risks., By Andrea Gagliarducci, National Catholic Register, January 8, 2024, Opinion Confusion follows confusion. The Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith sent a press release on Jan. 4 to explain Fiducia Supplicans — the declaration from the curial office that used to be the papacy’s stable doctrinal oversight department — which came as an early Christmas surprise and appeared not only to allow but perhaps to require that priests give blessings to same-sex couples (and others in all manner of “irregular” union).  Over the last week, in fact, another event illustrative of the times and of Pope Francis’ part in them took place. It might seem completely unconnected, but this is not the case. I’m talking about the telephone conversation that Pope Francis had with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. Ukrainian media, official Ukrainian agencies, and sources reported the phone call. Nothing about it came from the Holy See, not even to confirm that the phone call had taken place. The reason is simple: No one in the Holy See knew about it until it happened. It is presumable that not even the Vatican Secretariat of State, which in theory handles the Pope’s diplomatic activity, was involved.  The same thing happens, mutatis mutandis, even in matters of doctrine. The way that Hurricane Fiducia blew into being shows how. The whole thing stems from a 2021 responsum ad dubium from the then-styled Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which denied any possibility of blessing irregular couples per se but kept the door open for blessing individuals. Media hype almost instantly set the 2021 CDF response against the “style” of a pope who began his pontificate with the famous-and-famously-misconstrued, “Who am I to judge?” In reality, the “Who am I to judge?” utterance did not express any change the Church’s attitude towards homosexuals. That fact did not stop very many folks in the media from billing it as a sea change. Then, at the Sunday Angelus following the publication of the 2021 CDF note, Pope Francis added off the cuff that the language of Christ is that of tenderness and that Christ does not exclude anyone. His words were immediately interpreted, especially by those close to Pope Francis, as a step back from the “anti-gay” responsum. It looked like what it was: a journalistic construction. At this point, one must think that the Pope agreed and still wanted to keep hold of the image that it had created or furthered of him. The issue, in other words, was no longer about whether to bless irregular couples, but the effect of the narrative on Pope Francis’s popular image.   Sources inside the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith have stressed that there were internal discussions about the possibility of crafting such a document, but never any analysis or other consideration of an actual draft. Thus, there is the risk that there may not be documentation in the DDF archives demonstrating the internal debate, consideration of pros and cons examined, notes of consultants. There is the document, and that’s it, among other things, in the original Spanish. It is quite possible that there is no trace of any discussion as may allow anyone — now or ever — to understand how and why the Church ever got such a document. The practical upshot is that it is impossible to give a historical judgment of the pontificate based on much besides speculation or historical reconstructions. This holds for diplomacy, e.g., the Zelenskyy phone call, and for doctrinal issues viz. Fiducia Supplicans, and for workaday conversations that never get a memo to the file. Informality elevated to a system has perhaps allowed Pope Francis to feel like he is in control. At the same time, it allows everyone to interpret his choices and decisions in willy-nilly. Likewise, using exceptionally “light” documents without consultations makes it nigh on impossible to understand the heart of the decisions.  This informality puts not only this pope but the papacy and the Church at various risks: conceptual, institutional, and structural. So, one wonders whether those who uncritically defend every choice of the Pope perhaps no longer love what the Pope represents for them, so much as they love what his peculiar and hyper-personal rule is doing to the Church. This is the great theme of the day. Pope Francis, meanwhile, will make increasingly personal, increasingly centralizing, and increasingly divisive choices. After all, that is what he has done all along. https://www.ncregister.com/commentaries/pope-francis-informality-as-a-system__________________________________________________________ 10. The Vatican’s ‘two Chinas’ problem, By Ed. Condon, The Pillar, January 8, 2024, 4:22 PM  With the Vatican-China deal up for renewal this year, the Holy See’s Secretariat of State will have to decide if Beijing’s unilateral redrawing of the ecclesiastical map is a calculated provocation, and how it can respond within its limited diplomatic room to maneuver. As such moves become more common, however, the Vatican will have to reckon with the emerging divide between the Church in China recognized by Rome, which increasingly exists only on paper, and a different reality on the ground, run by the CPCA. As the expiration date for the Vatican-China deal gets closer, the “two Chinas” of the Church could end up making what little progress the accord can claim moot — and, unless something changes, its renewal could even become a line under its own ultimate failure.  Increasingly, the Chinese government has taken to moving unilaterally, naming and installing bishops without Roman approval, or even their prior knowledge in many cases.  When these appointments began, the Vatican initially sought to downplay the moves, implying there had been a communications error over the timing of announcements. Later, Rome offered what were effectively after-the-fact approval to some of the installations, until finally accepting publicly that they were hearing about new Chinese bishops through media reports.  Both sides, then, look committed to renewing a deal on paper which bears ever less relation to the reality of the Church in China. But the gap between diplomatic theory and reality on the ground is growing ever wider with every diocese China erects or suppresses. The emergence of a truly distinct state church, independent of the Vatican not only in how it names bishops but even in the territories of the dioceses to which it names them, cannot be politely ignored forever. At some point, the Vatican will have to face up to its “two Chinas” problem, and the role its accord with Beijing has played in creating it. https://www.pillarcatholic.com/p/the-vaticans-two-chinas-problem__________________________________________________________

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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