1. Desecrations Shake Catholic Parishes, By Francis X. Rocca, The Wall Street Journal, July 23, 2020, Pg. A3

Parishioners and clergy were shocked and grieving following a spate of vandalism at Catholic churches in various U.S. cities in recent weeks.

Catholic institutions from Boston to Florida reported more than half a dozen attacks on church property, including statues of Jesus and the Virgin Mary, between July 10 and 16.

“We have to be very vigilant in making sure that this doesn’t get legs and continue,” said Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami, chairman of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops committee for religious liberty, in an interview. “We have to be as vigilant as our Jewish brothers are vigilant against instances of anti-Semitism.”

The most violent incident was at Queen of Peace Church in Ocala, Fla., about 75 miles northwest of Orlando. Police say a man set fire to the church on July 11 while several parishioners were inside preparing for morning Mass.


2. The Hagia Sophia Is Converted Again, By The New York Times, July 23, 2020, Pg. A22, Editorial

On Friday, after 86 years as a museum, the great Hagia Sophia in Istanbul will once again echo with Muslim prayers. To Turkish Islamists, the conversion marks the fulfillment of a long-held dream of restoring a symbol of Ottoman grandeur. For many others around the world, the change is a dismaying setback for one of the world’s greatest architectural and cultural landmarks.

In converting the Hagia Sophia to a mosque, Mr. Erdogan has assumed the weighty responsibility of a custodian of one of the world’s cultural landmarks. He ought not be allowed to forget that.


3. McCarrick accused of running ‘sex cabal’, New Jersey beach house center of lawsuit, By Christopher Vondracek, The Washington Times, July 23, 2020, Pg. A12

A new lawsuit accuses former cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, the former archbishop of Washington, of managing a “sex cabal” among seminarians, altar boys and priests at a New Jersey beach house in the 1980s.

The 30-page lawsuit was filed late Tuesday in the Superior Court of New Jersey in Middlesex County by attorney Jeff Anderson on behalf of an unnamed plaintiff.


4. William Barr, nation’s top lawyer, is a culture warrior Catholic, By John Gehring, National Catholic Reporter, July 23, 2020, Opinion

Of the myriad forces that have shaped Barr’s views on politics, law and religion, a constant has been his connections to a tight-knit Catholic culture where fraternal organizations, think tanks and conservative clergy understand faith as a bulwark against perceived attacks on traditional morality, the family and church.

Barr graduated from Columbia University and later George Washington University Law School, climbing the ranks in the Ronald Reagan administration as a deputy assistant director for legal policy at the White House. After George H.W. Bush’s election, Barr was appointed to run the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, advising the president and all federal agencies. Bush named him attorney general in 1991.

He has long been passionate about defending a robust role for religion in public life, and is not a newcomer to the politics of Christian grievance. “We live in an increasingly militant, secular age,” Barr wrote in The Catholic Lawyer in 1995. “As part of this philosophy, we see a growing hostility toward religion, particularly Catholicism.”

Barr argued that religious Americans are the real victims in a shifting culture.

While Barr is not a member of Opus Dei, according to his Senate questionnaire, from 2014 to 2017 he served on the board of the Catholic Information Center, an Opus Dei-affiliated bookstore and chapel a few blocks from the White House that is a longtime hub for conservative intellectuals, Republican politicians and other well-connected Catholics in the nation’s capital.

Other prominent board members at the center have included Leonard Leo, co-chairman of the Federalist Society, which helped shepherd the Supreme Court nominations of Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch through the Senate confirmation process. White House counsel Pat Cipollone, who led Trump’s defense during the Senate impeachment trial, also previously served on the Catholic Information Center’s board. Cipollone was a speechwriter for Barr during the first Bush administration.

Another Barr speechwriter during the Bush years was John Wauck, who was later ordained an Opus Dei priest. “He struck me then — as he strikes me now — as an extremely intelligent man, low-key, affable and straightforward,” Wauck, a professor at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross in Rome, told NCR. “It was clear to me that he was a serious Catholic.”

But many conservatives view Barr as “a hero in the religious liberty world,” according to Ashley McGuire, a senior fellow with the Catholic Association, an organization based in Washington, D.C., that focuses on religious liberty issues. The attorney general has used his role, McGuire argues, “to restore a robust understanding of religious liberty to the Department of Justice after it took a serious beating during the Obama administration.”

She points to the Department of Justice prosecution of hate crimes against people of faith and its challenging so-called Blaine Amendments in state constitutions that prohibit federal funds from religious schools. The U.S. Supreme Court supported the Justice Department last month when it ruled the amendments unconstitutional.


5. Row over priest leading lesbian ceremony captures Church’s inner contradictions, By John L. Allen Jr., Crux, July 23, 2020, Opinion

Anyone seeking a religion run on the basis of strict logic probably would do well to steer clear of the Catholic Church, which is simply too big, too diverse, and, well, too conditioned by its headquarters in Italy to make sense all the time.

One area in which those internal contradictions are especially clear these days is its approach to the LGBTQ+ community, as the recent case of an Italian priest who presided over the civil union of a lesbian couple on the outskirts of Rome neatly illustrates.

When it comes to LGBTQ+ individuals, the Church tries to defend two ideas at once. The first is that they’re children of God worthy of respect and dignity, therefore any form of discrimination is wrong, and they should be welcome in the Church. The second is that marriage is between a man and a woman and sexual activity is only licit within that context, so that “gay marriage” is impossible and an LGBTQ+ person who’s sexually active falls short of God’s plan.

Trying to hold those two ideas together can be complicated, as Father Emanuele Moscatelli, former pastor of the Church of St. Lawrence the Martyr in the small town of Sant’Oreste, part of the province of Rome and therefore immediately subject to the Vatican, probably could tell you right about now.

Running through all this in miniature, of course, are eternal tensions in Catholicism between clarity and compassion, judgment and mercy, inclusion and identity. As applied to the LGBTQ+ world, it also shows that whatever the Church’s new pastoral equilibrium may finally become, it remains a work in progress.


6. New York bishops push back on bill proposing study of pro-life pregnancy centers, By Catholic News Agency, July 23, 2020, 12:11 AM

The New York Catholic bishops have voiced opposition to a bill that would report on the state’s pro-life pregnancy centers, saying its wording shows an inherent bias against the pregnancy centers.

“The New York State Catholic Conference opposes this legislation and urges a negative vote,” said the conference, which represents the bishops of the state, in a July 21 memorandum of opposition.

It said the legislation “would authorize the New York State Commissioner of Health to conduct a study and issue a report on the impact of pro-life pregnancy centers in the state. The pre-determined outcome of the ‘study’ is that such services are too ‘limited’ in denying pregnant women access to abortion.”


7. China turns surveillance state on religious gatherings, By Matt Hadro, Catholic News Agency, July 22, 2020, 1:00 PM

China is using advanced technology to monitor both public and private religious gatherings, witnesses told a federal hearing on Wednesday.

“As low-cost processors, sensors, and cameras have proliferated, the extent of religious life that the CCP can surveil has expanded dramatically,” said Chris Meserole, deputy director of the Artificial Intelligence and Emerging Technology Initiative at the Brookings Institution, on Wednesday at a hearing of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF).

The virtual hearing of USCIRF, a bipartisan federal commission that advises the U.S. government on matters of international religious freedom, focused on “technological surveillance of religion in China.”


8. How Will the Vatican Defend Its Saints?, By Paul Kengor, National Catholic Register, July 22, 2020, Opinion

The Ventura newspaper headline nailed it, “Amid Serra controversy, Pope Francis declares Mission San Buenaventura a basilica.”

But even then, it certainly seems like the Vatican could do more. St Junipero’s Feast Day just passed. That would have been an ideal moment for the Holy See to step forward with statements and even instructional materials on the saint and his contributions.

It begs the question: Will the Church — and the Vatican — stand by its saints who are increasingly under fire?

To be doubly fair, what can the Vatican be expected to do? The Holy See is not about to dispatch the Swiss Guard to guard statues in California coast towns. City officials in those towns themselves aren’t willing to dispatch guards to guard statues. The best we’ve seen is a fence outside Ventura city hall to hold back protesters until the construction crews come to yank down and warehouse effigies of St. Junipero Serra.

Of course, this goes well beyond St. Junipero. Likenesses of St. Louis is threatened by mobs in St. Louis, Missouri. Parishes in the United States are suddenly experiencing a rash of vandalization, desecration and possibly arson. Statues of Mary and even Jesus are being attacked. This seems to be a quickly deteriorating situation.

Will the Roman Catholic Church support its saints?

Paul Kengor is professor of political science at Grove City College in Grove City, Pennsylvania.


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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