TCA Podcast, – “Conversations with Consequences,” Episode 60 – From Pandemic To Protests: A Way Forward With Sohrab Ahmari

On this week’s Conversations with Consequences, Dr. Grazie Christie speaks with Catholic journalist and author Sohrab Ahmari about his own experiences during the protests in New York City and what, we as Catholics, can do to unify. Mary Hasson of the Ethics and Public Policy Center also joins with her thoughts on the role prayer can have during these troubling times.

1. Obama reversed; Gender identity can no longer be sex discrimination, By Dave Boyer, The Washington Times, June 15, 2020, Pg. A2

The Trump administration on Friday finalized a regulation that defines gender as a person’s biological sex, reversing an Obama-era rule aimed at protecting transgender people against sex discrimination in health care.

The Obama administration’s regulation defined gender as a person’s internal sense of being male, female, neither or a combination.

Dr. Grazie Pozo Christie, policy adviser for The Catholic Association, praised the move. She said preventing “discrimination on the basis of sex” was intended “to ensure that women are treated on a par with men.”

2. Expanded Tax Break for Charitable Gifts Gains Support in Congress: Bipartisan group of senators is pitching idea for next economic-relief legislation to help nonprofits and middle-class donors, as giving drops, By Richard Rubin, The Wall Street Journal, June 15, 2020, 7:00 AM

A bipartisan effort to expand tax breaks for charitable donations is gaining momentum in Congress, as nonprofit groups struggle during the pandemic.

Senators, including James Lankford (R., Okla.) and Jeanne Shaheen (D., N.H.), want to let taxpayers deduct charitable donations, even if they don’t itemize their deductions. Their plan would greatly increase a small tax break created in March that allowed such extra charitable deductions. Their plan would limit that to one-third of the standard deduction. In 2020, that is $4,133 for individuals and $8,267 for married couples.

3. Pope Francis urges aid to migrants and end to Libya fighting, By Associated Press, June 14, 2020, 7:51 AM

Pope Francis on Sunday urged political and military leaders in Libya to end their hostilities and called on the international community to take “to heart” the plight of migrants trapped in the lawless nation.

During his weekly blessing overlooking St. Peter’s Square, the pontiff called for “an end to the violence” and a path toward “peace, stability and unity’’ in the country.

4. Russia is jailing Christians. Where’s Mr. Trump?: The persecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses calls for action., By The Washington Post, June 13, 2020, Pg. A20

Now would be a good time for President Trump to act on a principle he claims to believe in. On June 2, he signed an executive order declaring that “Religious freedom for all people worldwide is a foreign policy priority of the United States,” and vowed to spend $50 million for programs that “anticipate, prevent, and respond to attacks against individuals and groups on the basis of their religion.” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the annual U.S. religious freedom report June 10, insisting “There is no other nation that cares so deeply about religious freedom.”

Mr. Pompeo should have discomfited the Kremlin by mentioning the plight of Jehovah’s Witnesses in his remarks. He did not. If Mr. Trump genuinely wants to defend religious freedom, and not just hold up a Bible in a photo op, he should publicly call out Mr. Putin for criminalizing worship. He should demand that Russia release the Jehovah’s Witnesses and leave them in peace.

5. ‘Victory For Conscience In America’: Pro-Life Groups Applaud HHS Clarification That Sex Discrimination Does Not Include Abortion, By Mary Margaret Olohan, Daily Caller, June 13, 2020, 2:00 PM

Pro-life groups applauded the Trump administration’s clarification Friday that sex discrimination does not include abortion when it comes to health care and coverage.

The Department of Health and Human Services announced in a Friday press release that HHS had finalized a rule clarifying language surrounding sex discrimination implemented by former President Barack Obama’s administration.

Every American should applaud the Trump administration’s move to revise Section 1557, policy advisor for The Catholic Association, Dr. Grazie Pozo Christie, told the DCNF.

“Preventing ‘discrimination on the basis of sex’ was intended to ensure that women are treated on a par with men,” Christie said. “Changing the definition of sex to mean ‘gender identity’ and to include unfettered access to abortion would not have protected the vulnerable.”

If the legislation hadn’t been clarified, it would have been “impossible” for doctors to decline to perform “ethically problematic procedures (like late-term abortion) and experimental and dangerous ones (like the removal of healthy organs from young patients with gender dysphoria),” Christie added.

6. Basilica of the National Shrine’s rector cleared after church investigations into financial, personal impropriety, By Michelle Boorstein, The Washington Post, June 13, 2020, Pg. B1

The rector of the Basilica of the National Shrine, one of the largest churches in North America, was cleared Friday for the second time by internal Catholic church investigators looking into allegations of financial and sexual improprieties.

Investigations into Monsignor Walter Rossi by the Archdiocese of Washington and the Diocese of Scranton, Pa., found no evidence of financial misconduct and no witnesses “who were aware of or could provide firsthand knowledge of sexual impropriety,” read statements from the dioceses. Rossi’s home diocese is in Scranton.

7. U.S. government condemns persecution of Catholic Church in Nicaragua, By Inés San Martín, Crux, June 13, 2020

Persecution of Christians, particularly the Catholic Church, is on the rise in Nicaragua, according to the United States’ Commission for International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), which says the government of President Daniel Ortega has accused local bishops of staging a coup to bring him down.

When protests against the government broke out in April 2018, the authorities used the military and armed militia, who fired into the crowds. The wounded often found refuge in the Catholic churches that opened their doors and became field hospitals for the wounded.

The bishops, at Ortega’s request, attempted to mediate a national dialogue between protesters and the government, but when the initiative failed, the prelates were blamed and accused of leading the opposition. As a result of civil conflict, hundreds were killed, thousands imprisoned and tens of thousands forced into exile.

8. With new fund, Pope aims to ‘cross streams’ of Church and secular world, By Elise Ann Allen, Crux, June 13, 2020, Opinion

Since his election in 2013, it has been clear that three of Pope Francis’s passions are having a poor church for the poor; implementing what he’s called a healthy de-centralization empowering local bishops, and, to quote Ghostbusters, “crossing the streams” – meaning fostering a collaboration between the Church and at times improbable players outside of the Catholic Church.

While usually people tend to focus on one of those things at a time, on Friday a new project in Rome was presented that managed to combine all three at once.

Earlier this week, Pope Francis in a rare move made in his capacity of Bishop of Rome rolled out a new fund aimed at assisting the economic victims of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

Specifically, the fund, called “Jesus the Divine Worker,” is meant to provide financial assistance to people who are either unemployed or whose temporary positions were not renewed as a result of the coronavirus, and who are therefore struggling to pay the bills.

9. Pope Francis: Catholics cannot ignore the poverty caused by the pandemic, By Courtney Mares, Catholic News Agency, June 13, 2020, 4:00 AM

Pope Francis said Saturday that the coronavirus pandemic has revealed poverty that Catholics cannot ignore.

“The word of God allows for no complacency; it constantly impels us to acts of love,” Pope Francis wrote in his message for the 2020 World Day of the Poor.

“This pandemic arrived suddenly and caught us unprepared, sparking a powerful sense of bewilderment and helplessness,” the pope said. “This has made us all the more aware of the presence of the poor in our midst and their need for help.”

Pope Francis said that “time devoted to prayer can never become an alibi for neglecting our neighbor in need.”

10. Covid-19 is killing Catholic schools — and hurting the minorities that attend them, By Kathleen Parker, The Washington Post, June 12, 2020, 4:57 PM, Opinion

Among the many consequences of our covid-19 economy is the likely closing of dozens of Catholic schools that serve minority students in vulnerable, underserved communities.

The National Catholic Educational Association (NCEA) estimates that at least 100 such schools won’t reopen in the fall — or probably ever. Their fortunes and those of their students rely heavily upon charitable donations, which have fallen off in the months since stay-at-home orders went into effect. Without those funds, the schools can’t offer scholarships to families that otherwise couldn’t afford tuition. Twenty percent of students in the nation’s 6,000 Catholic schools are minorities, including Hispanics, African Americans and Asians.

As celebrities busy themselves with virtue signaling, making videos of themselves professing to fight racism, now seems an opportune time to consider donating to some of these schools so that minority children can receive a quality education while absorbing values that will contribute more to racial equality and harmony than all the selfies and proclamations social media can record.–and-hurting-the-minorities-that-attend-them/2020/06/12/056ad3ac-ace0-11ea-9063-e69bd6520940_story.html

11. Audrey Donnithorne: Woman of Valor, By George Weigel, The Catholic World Report, June 12, 2020, Opinion

The first two sentences of Audrey Donnithorne’s autobiography, China in Life’s Foreground, suggest something of her character, independence of mind, and dry sense of humor:

[“]I am an Overseas Brit and a Sichuan country girl. My grandparents were born on three different continents, but all were intensely British, especially, perhaps, the duskier among them.[”]

Born on November 27, 1922, at a Quaker mission hospital in rural China, the self-styled “Sichuan country girl” died in Hong Kong on June 8. In ninety-seven years of an extraordinary life, Audrey Donnithorne navigated a kaleidoscope of experiences that rank her as one of the most remarkable Catholics of modern times and a genuine heroine of the faith.

Perhaps most importantly, she worked to build bridges of understanding and cooperation between what are often, and simplistically, thought to be China’s deeply and permanently divided “underground Catholics” and “patriotic Catholics.” Knowing the vast differences within China and understanding Chinese culture from the inside, she knew that things are rarely simple or straightforward in the Middle Kingdom. A very practical person, Audrey Donnithorne took situations and personalities one-at-a-time, never trying to force people or circumstances onto some Procrustean bed of theory or ideology. That approach made a real difference. Her hard, patient, and effective work helped bring illicitly ordained Chinese bishops into full communion with the Bishop of Rome during the pontificate of John Paul II – work for which she was awarded the Papal Cross Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice.

At the same time, she understood that the current Chinese leadership under Xi Jinping was bent on creating a “Sino-Catholicism” for its own purposes. And it is scandalous that those now responsible for China in the Vatican seem never to have taken counsel with Audrey Donnithorne, who knew far more about China than any Italian papal diplomat. Perhaps her longstanding collaboration with the redoubtable Cardinal Joseph Zen, SDB, Bishop Emeritus of Hong Kong, branded her a “non-friend” in the Rome of recent years. If so, the losers from that sorry misperception were the architects of today’s Vatican China policy, an ongoing disaster for the Church’s evangelical mission on the mainland.

Although there are fourteen language editions of Witness to Hope, the first volume of my John Paul II biography, the only translations the Pope really urged me to get done were German and Chinese. With strong support from Cardinals Joseph Ratzinger and Joachim Meisner, a German translation and edition were arranged without too much difficulty. Chinese was a different matter. It was obvious that the book could not be produced in the People’s Republic. A Chinese edition of Witness to Hope published on Taiwan would never make it into mainland China, and the whole point of the exercise was for John Paul to be able to “visit” China through the book. So the only serious option was translation and publication in Hong Kong.

It took a while, not least because of the challenge of accurately translating a 1,000-page book into a character-based language so that my meaning (and, more importantly, John Paul’s) were precisely conveyed. A week or so before she died, Audrey sent me a brief video, thanking me for my friendship and prayers and apologizing for not having done more to get the Chinese Witness to Hope project completed. That was, of course, not her fault; but it was entirely in character for her to imagine that it was, and that she had somehow failed me. So it was another happy, providential coincidence that, a few days later, Cardinal Zen wrote me with the news that the translation had finally been finished and the presses were ready to run with the long-gestated Chinese edition of Witness to Hope. With the kind assistance of two of Audrey’s longtime friends, William McGurn of the Wall Street Journal and Teresa Lai, wife of the intrepid Hong Kong democracy activist and philanthropist Jimmy Lai, I was able to get word of this to Audrey shortly before her death.

Audrey Donnithorne died with Teresa Lai and the Lais’ daughter Claire praying the rosary with her. Her ashes will be buried in her native Sichuan, at the Church of Our Lady of Lourdes. In the future, after the current Chinese regime and its assault on religious freedom is a bad memory, that church should become a place of pilgrimage. Audrey would scoff at the notion, I’m sure. But she was a true confessor of the faith and, in God’s providence, I trust she will be long be remembered as such.

12. Catholics Fearful About Looming Chinese Restrictions on Hong Kong, By Edward Pentin, National Catholic Register, June 12, 2020

“People are afraid Beijing wants to control the city and make Hong Kong like the cities of mainland China,” said Father Sergio Ticozzi, an Italian missionary in the East Asian metropolis. “The young generation especially don’t feel they have any future, will have no freedom, and so are very worried about the situation.”

A priest of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions, Father Ticozzi shared these concerns with the Register on June 9 as China’s ruling Communist Party looks set to impose a controversial national security law on Hong Kong, bypassing its own legislature.

The law, expected to come into force in August, is being seen not only as a major blow to the city’s freedoms that have been guaranteed since the former British colony was returned to China in 1997, but also as a clear warning to the Vatican and other institutions dealing with China that Beijing cannot be trusted and is willing to renege on international agreements.

Despite these concerns, neither the Vatican nor Pope Francis has made any public statements about Hong Kong.

“The Vatican keeps silent, as it wishes to avoid saying anything that could be offensive to the Beijing government, and that includes the situation in Hong Kong,” said Father Ticozzi. He pointed out that “generally” the Hong Kong people “appreciate the Vatican,” but he said “some people,” especially on the justice and peace commission, “are a bit unhappy” about the Vatican “not clearly speaking up for justice and the treatment of citizens in Hong Kong and China.”

On the Vatican’s silence, Cardinal Zen had stronger words. “It’s shameful what they are doing, shameful,” he told the Register. “They’ve issued no words of reproach over all these years, but instead are always praising the Chinese government.”

13. Churches have the same rights as protests, DOJ tells Maryland county, By Catholic News Agency, June 12, 2020, 11:00 AM

The Justice Department (DOJ) praised a Maryland county council on Wednesday for protecting the First Amendment rights of protesters and said it now expects them to extend the same protections to religious gatherings.

In a June 10 letter to the Montgomery County Council, Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband of the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division praised the county’s permitting of public anti-racism protests in spite of its current restrictions on public gatherings during the coronavirus pandemic. He added that the county should give religious gatherings the same recognition.

“Your support for peaceful assembly and speech follows the best of our nation’s traditions,” Dreiband told Montgomery County, which borders Washington, D.C.

“Of no less importance, of course, is the First Amendment’s protection for religious exercise,” Dreiband said of the protests. He added that “we anticipate” that the council would amend the executive order to allow for religious gatherings as part of “the full range of rights protected by the First Amendment.”

14. Judge rejects Catholic dioceses’ suit to access coronavirus relief, By Catholic News Agency, June 12, 2020, 2:00 PM

A federal judge on Wednesday denied attempts by the Catholic dioceses of Buffalo and Rochester to obtain emergency small business loans.

In April, the dioceses had sued the Small Business Administration (SBA) after they were blocked from emergency small business loans under the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) because of their bankruptcy debtor status.

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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