TCA Podcast, – “Conversations with Consequences,” Episode 64 – Archbishop Thomas Wenski Discusses Religious Liberty & CNA’s Luke Coppen On All Things U.K.!

On this week’s Conversations with Consequences, Dr. Grazie Christie and TCA colleague Maureen Ferguson discuss some big wins from the Supreme Court affecting both Catholic schools and institutions! Archbishop Thomas Wenski also joins Grazie for a round-up of religious freedom issues as he takes the reins as Chairman of the US Bishops’ committee on religious liberty.

As churches reopened for Mass this past weekend in the U.K., we also chat with Luke Coppen of Catholic News Agency about the impact of the pandemic on Catholic life in Europe. We also discuss a couple of pro-life wins in the House of Commons–stay tuned til the end for a very inspiring homily from Father Roger Landry–and make sure to tune in every Saturday at 5pm ET on EWTN radio!

1. Joe Biden vs. the Nuns: As President, he says he’d keep harassing the Little Sisters of the Poor on contraception, By The Wall Street Journal, July 10, 2020, Pg. A14, Editorial

Hours after the Little Sisters of the Poor won—again—at the Supreme Court on Wednesday, Joe Biden pledged to fight like hell to roll back conscience protections for Catholic nuns and other religious employers who object to providing contraceptives.

The first version of ObamaCare’s contraceptive mandate offered a narrow exclusion only for churches. But Vice President Biden “argued internally for a stronger exemption than what was in the initial rule,” according to “Reclaiming Hope,” a memoir by Michael Wear, who worked on faith issues in the White House. Mr. Biden even “arranged for Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, the head of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, to meet with President Obama.”

Some of Mr. Obama’s advisers “concluded that Biden’s political radar was out of date.”

But the share of Catholics voters who chose the Republican for President rose seven points, to 52%, from 2008 to 2016. The Obama Administration’s protracted legal war on Catholic nuns surely had something to do with it. Feelings of besiegement were often cited by religious backers of the not-exactly-pious Donald Trump.

Mr. Biden projects a moderate Catholic persona, so why continue fanning these cultural flames?

Harassing nuns in court for four more years won’t unite the country, and it makes us wonder if Mr. Biden will ever be capable of saying no to the ascendant cultural left.

2. AP: After lobbying, Catholic Church won $1.4B in virus aid, By Reese Dunklin and Michael Rezendes, Associated Press, July 10, 2020, 2:11 AM

The U.S. Roman Catholic Church used a special and unprecedented exemption from federal rules to amass at least $1.4 billion in taxpayer-backed coronavirus aid, with many millions going to dioceses that have paid huge settlements or sought bankruptcy protection because of clergy sexual abuse cover-ups.

The church’s haul may have reached — or even exceeded — $3.5 billion, making a global religious institution with more than a billion followers among the biggest winners in the U.S. government’s pandemic relief efforts, an Associated Press analysis of federal data released this week found.

3. China denies it pressured pope to refrain from Hong Kong appeal, By Elise Ann Allen, Crux, July 10, 2020

Asked whether China pressured Pope Francis to omit an appeal for Hong Kong from his Sunday Angelus address, Chinese Foreign Minister Zhao Lijian denied the charges.

“I am not aware of the situation, but we hope and believe that people of vision who truly care about Hong Kong will choose to act in ways beneficial to Hong Kong’s development,” Zhao said, adding that, “China will continue to engage in constructive dialogues with the Vatican and work for the improvement of bilateral relations.”

Zhao’s comments were made during a July 9 press conference, days after reports came out saying Pope Francis had omitted a sizable chunk of text on the situation unfolding in Hong Kong, including a plea for religious freedom and human rights, from his Sunday Angelus address.

4. Navy revises policy on service members attending worship services off base, By Julie Asher, Crux, July 10, 2020

A prohibition by some U.S. Navy commands against active service members participating in off-base indoor religious services over coronavirus fears has now been revised, allowing attendance at places of worship where congregants can maintain social distance and wear face coverings.

But when the head of the U.S. Archdiocese for the Military Services first learned of it, he called the policy “particularly odious to Catholics.”

5. Job Bias Laws Do Not Protect Teachers at Church-Run Schools, Justices Rule, By Adam Liptak, The New York Times, July 9, 2020, Pg. A17

The Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday that federal employment discrimination laws do not apply to teachers at church-run schools whose duties include religious instruction.

Dr. Grazie Christie, a policy adviser for The Catholic Association, welcomed the ruling.

“Today’s Supreme Court decision confirms that government has no business second-guessing the selection of religion teachers at religious schools,” she said in a statement. “It is a clear win for the First Amendment and religious liberty when the highest court affirms the right of religious institutions to be free of government interference and meddling.”

6. Justices Reject Catholic Teachers’ Claims: In L.A. County cases, high court shields religious schools from discrimination suits., By David G. Savage, The Los Angeles Times, July 9, 2020, Pg. A1

The Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld most of a Trump administration regulation that would free employers from providing contraceptives to their employees if they have a religious or moral objection, potentially leaving more than 120,000 women with no coverage.

Maureen Ferguson, a senior fellow for the Catholic Assn., said the “Little Sisters of the Poor engage in the noblest of front-line healthcare work, selflessly caring for the elderly poor in nursing homes; yet for seven years they have been legally harassed by the Obama-Biden administration and other government officials in an attempt to force them to distribute abortion-inducing drugs in their healthcare plans. Today the Supreme Court ruled that the Trump administration had the authority to grant an exemption for the Little Sisters and other conscientious objectors.”

7. The Little Sisters’ Supreme Court Saga Could Be Far From Over: Victory prevailed this week in their seven-year legal battle, but what will come next for the cause for conscience?, By Lauretta Brown, National Catholic Register, July 9, 2020

While the Little Sisters of the Poor celebrated yet another Supreme Court victory on Wednesday in their seven-year legal battle to receive a religious exemption from the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate, many are questioning if the fight will continue, especially given the upcoming presidential election.

Maureen Ferguson, senior policy adviser for The Catholic Association, told the Register that the court’s decision is “a huge victory,” but she doesn’t know “if this is the end of it.”

“Given the aggressive nature of the abortion lobby and the Democratic Party on this issue and the fact that they dragged the Little Sisters of the Poor to the Supreme Court three times, I would take Justice Alito’s prediction very seriously,” she said.

Ferguson said that while the Little Sisters’ Supreme Court wins should “be definitive,” you “still have the AG and the presidential candidate of the Democratic Party say ‘we’re going to continue to legally harass these nuns under threat of millions of dollars of fines.’”

She commented that Biden’s vow to return to the original pre-Hobby Lobby mandate should cause voters to “have their eyes wide open because this is the policy that originated in the Obama-Biden administration, and Biden is making it very clear that he would continue that policy in a Biden administration: of forcing nuns to facilitate the distribution of contraception and abortion-inducing drugs.”

“Nobody should be confused about where Joe Biden stands on these issues,” Ferguson added. “He is a hundred percent in the pocket of the abortion lobby. Nobody should be fooled by his rhetoric around these issues.”

Biden has been publicly corrected by the USCCB in the past for falsely claiming in 2012 that “no religious institution … has to pay for contraception” under the mandate.

Ferguson added that this comes at an especially troubling time for the sisters, who “take care of the most vulnerable population to coronavirus, the elderly poor, and they’re doing it selflessly. Joe Biden is threatening to go back to a policy of massive government fines for these frontline health-care workers? It’s completely outrageous.”

8. Biden Pledges to Reverse Supreme Court Ruling on Religious Liberty, By Graham Piro, Washington Free Beacon, July 9, 2020, 3:00 PM

Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden on Wednesday pledged to undo the Supreme Court’s decision in favor of religious liberty for the Little Sisters of the Poor.

Maureen Ferguson, a senior fellow with the Catholic Association, said that a vote for Biden is a vote “to force Catholic nuns to facilitate distribution of contraceptives and abortion-inducing drugs under threat of massive government fines.”

9. Are the Little Sisters of the Poor finally free from legal harassment?, By Nicole Russell, Washington Examiner, July 9, 2020, 2:00 PM, Opinion

In an encouraging win for religious liberty, the Supreme Court ruled 7-2 in favor of the Little Sisters of the Poor and its right to be exempt from Obamacare’s contraceptive mandate.

Justice Samuel Alito, who wrote separately, joined by Justice Neil Gorsuch, excoriated the concept of a contraceptive mandate. “First, [Obamacare] does not provide contraceptive coverage for women who do not work outside the home. If Congress thought that there was a compelling need to make free contraceptives available for all women, why did it make no provision for women who do not receive a paycheck? Some of these women may have a greater need for free contraceptives than do women in the work force. Second, if Congress thought that there was a compelling need to provide cost-free contraceptives for all working women, why didn’t Congress mandate that coverage in [Obamacare] itself? Why did it leave it to [the Health Resources and Services Administration] to decide whether to require such coverage at all?”

Religious liberty advocates are thrilled with the ruling. Maureen Ferguson, a senior fellow for the Catholic Association, applauded Alito’s opinion in a statement: “Although the nuns won in court again today, Justice Alito predicted that the aggressive litigation against the Little Sisters will continue, despite the fact that ‘no employee of the Little Sisters has come forward with an objection to the Little Sisters’ conduct.’ We commend Justice Alito for writing in his concurrence that he would finally ‘bring the Little Sisters’ legal odyssey to an end.”

10. The Court Again Protects Religious Liberty, By Carrie Campbell Severino, National Review, July 9, 2020, 12:36 AM, Opinion

Yesterday was a great day for religious liberty at the Supreme Court. In two companion cases about the ministerial exception, Our Lady of Guadalupe School v. Morrissey-Berru and St. James School v. Biel, a 7–2 Court held that it cannot second-guess a religious school’s determination as to who should teach religion.

Justices Ginsburg and Sotomayor were the lone dissenters, but they would have been happy to undermine protections for schools run by religious institutions. Considering that those justices were part of Hosanna-Tabor’s unanimous decision, their dissent in Our Lady of Guadalupe suggests that if they had their way, the standard that would apply to religious schools would vary based upon their denomination. As if to prove the point, Sotomayor’s dissenting opinion took an unworkable “holistic” approach and then applied that to reach a different conclusion with respect to the Catholic school teachers than she had reached in the Lutheran school case.

The dissent is a striking reminder of the need for judges who are protective of the religious liberty guaranteed by the Constitution.

11. Judge strikes down Indiana abortion complications report law, By Tom Davies, Associated Press, July 9, 2020, 3:39 PM

A federal judge has struck down an Indiana law that aimed to require reports from medical providers to the state if they treat women for complications arising from abortions.

U.S. District Judge Richard Young’s ruling Wednesday that the law was unconstitutional came two years after Young granted a preliminary injunction blocking the law from taking effect following its 2018 passage.

Republican Attorney General Curtis Hill said in a statement Thursday that his office would “continue defending Indiana’s commonsense laws regulating the abortion industry.”

12. Ex-Salvadoran officer: ‘High command’ gave order to kill Jesuits in ’89, By David Agren, Catholic News Service, July 9, 2020

A former Salvadoran army officer has testified that the “high command” gave orders to eliminate Jesuits priests during the country’s civil war. He also said the Central American country’s president would have known of the crimes to be committed and did not intervene.

The testimony was offered at the trial of Inocente Orlando Montano, a former colonel in the army of El Salvador, who is on trial in Spain for the murders of six Jesuits, their housekeeper and her daughter on the campus of a Catholic university.

“The entire operation was ordered by the high command,” testified Yusshy Rene Mendoza, a former lieutenant in the Salvadoran army and a cooperating witness.

13. German bishop appoints committee to reevaluate beatification process of Schoenstatt founder, By Catholic News Agency, July 9, 2020, 5:54 PM

Bishop Stephan Ackermann of the German diocese of Tier announced the appointment of a commission of historians to review the beatification process of Fr. Josef Kentenich, founder the Schoenstatt Movement, a decision that was welcomed by Fr. Juan Pablo Catoggio, international  president of the Schoenstatt movement.

The decision, announced on July 7, follows the recent revelations published by Church historian Alexandra von Teuffenbach,  former professor of theology and Church history at the Pontifical Lateran University and the Athenaeum Regina Apostolorum, who reviewed Vatican-commissioned assessments of the Schoenstatt movement, which reportedly portray Kentenich as manipulative and coercive.

14. Cardinal Tobin asks Trump for clemency in death row case, By Catholic News Agency, July 9, 2020, 3:00 PM

Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark has joined several U.S. bishops in asking President Donald Trump to commute the death sentence of a federal inmate scheduled to be executed on July 17. Exercising clemency, the cardinal told the president, can help “stem the tide of anger and revenge” in the country.

Cardinal Tobin sent a letter to Trump on Thursday asking for clemency for Dustin Honken, who was convicted of the murder of five people, including a single mother and her two daughters aged ten and six years old, in 2004.

15. Survey finds 30% of German Catholics are considering leaving Church, By Catholic News Agency, July 9, 2020, 8:15 AM

A survey released Thursday found that 30% of German Catholics are considering leaving the Church.

The poll, conducted by the research institute INSA Consulere for the Catholic weekly newspaper Die Tagespost, reported that almost a third of respondents agreed with the statement “I am a member of the Church and can imagine leaving the Church soon.”

Researchers said July 9 that 54% of Catholics disagreed with the statement, 9% said they did not know, and 7% did not offer a response, CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German-language news partner, reported.

16. Vatican diplomat tells UN ‘gender identity’ category not necessary for refugee protection, By Courtney Mares, Catholic News Agency, July 9, 2020, 9:15 AM

A Holy See diplomat raised concern at the United Nations in Geneva this week over the use of the term “gender identity” within the UN’s refugee protection categories.

“The categories ‘sexual orientations’ and ‘gender identity,’ used in the text, find no clear and agreed definition in international law and risk the introduction of new forms of discriminatory categories within the international humanitarian community,” Archbishop Ivan Jurkovič told the UN High Commissioner for Refugees executive committee July 7.

“The inclusion of these terms is not necessary to ensure that anyone seeking protection because of persecution, for any reason, receives protection,” he said.

17. Hong Kong, Religious Freedom and Catholic Responsibility: China’s current policy is a toxic blend of Mao’s ruthlessness and sophisticated 21st-century surveillance techniques — in effect, an updated religious Cultural Revolution, By Thomas F. Farr, National Catholic Register, July 9, 2020, Opinion

On June 30, China’s draconian “security law” went into effect in Hong Kong. The law represents a dramatic escalation of Beijing’s assault on the island’s autonomy and its freedoms, including those of Catholics.

Once again, Vatican diplomacy is on trial, especially the 2018 Sino-Vatican accord. China’s actions in Hong Kong and the mainland have raised the question of the Church’s proper role in defending religious freedom for Catholics and for others. This is increasingly true as the Church’s partner in diplomacy — Chinese communism — attacks the very ground of Catholic witness.

At this writing, the Holy See has said nothing. The only “official” word has come from Cardinal John Tong, the administrator of Hong Kong, who has implausibly declared that the new law does not threaten religious freedom or the Church in Hong Kong.

Let us pray that the Holy See will seize this important opportunity to witness to a central truth of our Faith: No state should be allowed to oppress its citizens, Catholic or otherwise, with the vile and savage methods honed by Xi Jinping and his communist regime. The Pope should withdraw from the 2018 accord and condemn China.

Thomas F. Farr is the president of the Religious Freedom Institute. He was the first director of the State Department’s Office of International Religious Freedom and traveled to China and Hong Kong in that capacity.

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.