1. Supreme Court to Weigh Bans on Transgender Medical Treatments, Justices agree to hear Biden administration’s challenge to Tennessee law banning gender-transition care for minors, By Jess Bravin and Jan Wolfe, The Wall Street Journal, June 24, 2024, 10:24 AM
The Supreme Court agreed to decide whether states can restrict medical treatments for transgender minors, a case that puts the justices in the middle of a national debate over gender identity ahead of the November elections.
In a brief order on Monday, the court said it would hear the Biden administration’s challenge to a Tennessee law that bans gender-transition care, such as medications that can delay the onset of puberty and hormones that can cause physical changes such as the development of facial hair or breasts.
The Justice Department argues that the measure violates the Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection, contending that the law bans medical treatments only if they are used to treat gender dysphoria while permitting their use for other conditions, such as precocious puberty.
A federal appeals court in Cincinnati rejected that argument. “The unsettled, developing, in truth still experimental, nature of treatments in this area surely permits more than one policy approach, and the Constitution does not favor one over the other,” Chief Judge Jeffrey Sutton wrote for the Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Roughly two dozen states have now banned or restricted such treatments.

2. The Vatican appoints Pope Benedict’s longtime secretary as its envoy to the Baltic states, Pope Francis has appointed the longtime secretary of the late Pope Benedict XVI, who was sent back to his native Germany without a new assignment last year after a falling-out with the current pontiff, as the Vatican’s diplomatic representative to the Baltic states, By Associated Press, The Washington Post, June 24, 2024, 9:47 AM
Pope Francis has appointed the longtime secretary of the late Pope Benedict XVI, who was sent back to his native Germany without a new assignment last year after he fell out with the current pontiff, as the Vatican’s diplomatic representative to the Baltic states.

The Vatican announced in its daily bulletin Monday that Archbishop Georg Gänswein was named as the papal nuncio to Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia.
Francis removed Gänswein from his Vatican job last year and ordered him to return to his diocese of origin, Freiburg in southwestern Germany. The Freiburg archdiocese said last summer that he wouldn’t be given a permanent job there, but would lead regular services at the city’s cathedral and could take on “individual assignments” such as confirmations.
His removal from the Vatican followed a very public falling-out that culminated with Gänswein’s tell-all memoir, which was highly critical of Francis.

3. The pope’s right-hand man is reshaping the church, becoming a target, Most Catholics have little sense of the liberal archbishop behind the Vatican’s pronouncements. But critics of the pope see Víctor Manuel Fernández as Enemy No. 2., By Anthony Faiola and Stefano Pitrelli, The Washington Post, June 24, 2024, 6:00 AM
 When Pope Francis first asked if he would be willing to take one of the loftiest jobs at the Vatican, heading the office that sets the policies of the Roman Catholic Church, Víctor Manuel Fernández said no. The liberal Argentine archbishop worried his appointment might make things worse for a pope facing historic internal dissent.

“I knew that there were groups that did not love me, some willing to do anything — judging by the expressions they used on social networks and even in messages they wrote on my Facebook page — and I was afraid of causing problems for Francis,” Fernández said in an interview with The Washington Post.
When the pope called again last June, from a hospital where he’d just undergone intestinal surgery, Fernández relented. He moved to Vatican City, was named a cardinal and became the pope’s right-hand man, helping to translate the changes in tone and style Francis brought to the papacy into concrete new guidelines for 1.4 billion Catholics.

Most Catholics have little sense of the man behind the Vatican’s recent major pronouncements, including blessings for people in same-sex relationships. But the church conservatives opposed to Francis see Fernández as Enemy No. 2. Within the walls of Vatican City, the machinations against the 61-year old cardinal have risen to the level of high palace intrigue, complete with photos snapped surreptitiously in the night and private threats to “destroy” him.

Fernández’s arrival marked the end of an era of conservative leadership in the Vatican department known as the Dicastery of the Doctrine of the Faith. The office is most famous for the tribunals of the Roman Inquisition in the 16th century. In more recent decades, it has managed — critics say mismanaged — cases of clerical abuse; reinforced the “immorality” of premarital sex, abortion and euthanasia; and disciplined bishops, priests and nuns for not toeing the Vatican line.

Through Fernández, Pope Francis set out to reinvent the office.
“The dicastery that you will preside over in other epochs came to use immoral methods,” he wrote in a letter to Fernández in July. “Those were times when more than promoting theological knowledge they chased after possible doctrinal errors. What I expect from you is something without doubt much different.”

Fernández is also responsible for changes of substance. With Francis’s consent, he penned the major document in December that authorized Catholic priests to bless people in same-sex relationships — just two and half years after his more conservative predecessor had rejected the notion out of hand. Fernández issued a decree explicitly allowing transgender godparents and baptisms of transgender people.

Senior church critics insist it is no coincidence that Francis waited to place Fernández in the rulemaking post until after the death of Benedict XVI, the traditionalist pope emeritus.
“I think Pope Francis felt himself now freer to realize his ideas,” said Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller, an ally of Benedict who ran the dicastery from 2012 to 2017. “And therefore, he asked [Cardinal] Fernández to come [to] his side, and to promote this program, this agenda.”

Not all of Fernández’s work has come off as “liberal.” LGBTQ+ activists were taken aback in April when he unveiled a document, also signed by the pope, that said “sex-change intervention” threatened “human dignity.” Fernández told The Post that a version drafted before his arrival had focused more heavily on gender identity, and part of his contribution had been to bring its contents in line with the pope’s broadly inclusive message toward migrants, the poor and others. The final document, he noted, also explicitly denounced persecution based on sexual orientation.

He also left open the door to a recasting of official church teaching — or catechism — that states homosexual acts are “intrinsically disordered.”
“All subjects can be refined,” he said. “And the language we use can always be much better. In this way there is a chance of greater clarity.”

More than anything, Fernández has emerged as the pope’s chief defender, repeatedly reminding the pontiff’s Catholic critics of their obligation to papal fealty.

4. Abortion Debate Shifts as Election Nears: ‘Now It’s About Pregnancy’, Two years after Roe was struck down, the conversation has focused on the complications that can come with pregnancy and fertility, helping to drive more support for abortion rights., By Kate Zernike, The New York Times, June 24, 2024, 8:51 AM
In the decades that Roe v. Wade was the law of the land, abortion rights groups tried to shore up support for it by declaring “Abortion Is Health Care.”

Only now, two years after the Supreme Court eliminated the constitutional right to abortion, and just six months before the presidential election, has the slogan taken on the force of reality.
The public conversation about abortion has grown into one about the complexities of pregnancy and reproduction, as the consequences of bans have played out in the news. The question is no longer just whether you can get an abortion, but also, Can you get one if pregnancy complications put you in septic shock? Can you find an obstetrician when so many are leaving states with bans? If you miscarry, will the hospital send you home to bleed? Can you and your partner do in vitro fertilization?
That shift helps explain why a record percentage of Americans are now declaring themselves single-issue voters on abortion rights — especially among Black voters, Democrats, women and those ages 18 to 29. Republican women are increasingly saying their party’s opposition to abortion is too extreme, and Democrats are running on the issue after years of running away from it.

5. European bishops say Pope Francis concerned with abortion, EU unity, By Elise Ann Allen, Crux, June 24, 2024
European bishops this weekend had a meeting with Pope Francis in the wake of the recent EU elections, with the pontiff voicing concern over the weakening of the European Union as well as social issues such as abortion.
Speaking to Crux, Father Manuel Barrios Prieto, secretary general of the Commission of Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union (COMECE), described Saturday’s meeting with the pontiff as “very cordial” and open.
Pope Francis, he said, stressed the need for a “mystique of dialogue” within the EU, “to maintain a strong dialogue with the European institutions.”
The pontiff, he said, was “very aware” of the status of the European Union, given the rise of far-right Euro-skeptical parties, and voiced concern over the current “fragility” of the EU, as well as the war in Ukraine and in Gaza.
“He insisted very much on the importance of dialogue with the European institutions. He insisted very much on the war, and he also brought up the issue of abortion as an important concern for the Church, obviously, so that was also brought up in the discussion,” Prieto said.
Debate over abortion has flared up in recent months following France’s vote in March to enshrine abortion as a fundamental right in its constitution – a decision that sparked widespread debate, and which the French bishops and the Vatican’s Academy for Life publicly opposed.

6. U.S. bishops commemorate 2nd anniversary of Dobbs ruling, By Gigi Duncan, Catholic News Agency, June 24, 2024, 6:00 AM
The chairman of the U.S. Catholic bishops’ pro-life committee has released a statement commemorating the second anniversary of the overturning of Roe v. Wade.
Bishop Michael Burbidge of Arlington, Virginia, as chairman of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, reflected on the challenges faced by the pro-life movement since the historic decision.
“On June 24, 2024, we celebrate the second anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, ending the tragic reign of Roe v. Wade,” he said.
“It is a day for thanksgiving to God for answering our prayers and blessing the many years of hard work. This anniversary calls us to reflect on where we have been and where we are going,” Burbidge said.

7. Step Into Religious Freedom Week as Proud People of Faith, Just as the right to worship is central to religious freedom, so too is the ability to live out the faith in daily lives., By Andrea M. Picciotti-Bayer, National Catholic Register, June 24, 2024, Opinion
The Catholic Church in the United States has always had a knack for responding not just to the needs of the faithful but of society at large.
Consider, for example, the U.S. bishops’ Religious Freedom Week, running from June 22-29. By asking Catholics across the country to promote and protect religious freedom here at home and abroad, the Church is championing individual freedom and the common good.
And never more so than now. The focus of this year’s Religious Freedom Week is a subject that desperately needs addressing.
Catholics are being asked to consider the importance of sacred spaces. Why? Because they are under threat.

It’s shocking that more than 400 Catholic churches in the United States have been attacked since May 2020. According to CatholicVote, the incidents have included “acts of arson which damaged or destroyed historic churches; spray-painting and graffiti of satanic messages; rocks and bricks thrown through windows; statues destroyed (often with heads cut off); and illegal disruptions of Mass.”
Such anti-Catholic violence has a lot to do with the Church’s unflinching defense of the sanctity of the unborn. In fact, more than half of the attacks on Catholic churches have happened since the release in May 2022 of the draft Supreme Court opinion in Dobbs, which held that the U.S. Constitution does not guarantee the right to abortion. These acts of vandalism include graffiti with pro-abortion messages.
Disappointingly, despite being our nation’s second Catholic president, President Biden has failed to marshal his administration toward a robust protection of Catholic sacred spaces. His administration has instead pursued a lopsided prosecution of the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act, a law that prohibits the use or threat of force and physical obstruction that injures, intimidates, or interferes with a person seeking to access an abortion facility or a house of worship. It has no qualms about aggressively prosecuting pro-life protesters. Meanwhile it ignores attacks on churches.

Religious Freedom Week comes to an end by drawing attention to the right of health care workers and institutions to operate consistent with conscience. Abortion, euthanasia and much of what falls under the umbrella of “gender-affirming care” are at odds with Catholic teaching on the sanctity and dignity of the person, made in the image and likeness of God. These harmful interventions are not health care, and Catholic medical professionals, hospitals, and insurance plans must continue to resist what is contrary to authentic healing.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that Religious Freedom Week includes an important reminder: the defense of religious freedom must be done with civility. The USCCB invites Catholics to join in its “Civilize It: A Better Kind of Politics,” an initiative to address polarization and division in our Church and our nation. I think we can all agree that, now more than ever, we need to address this increasingly ugly problem. You can take the pledge here.
8. Abortion access has won when it’s been on the ballot. That’s not an option for half the states, Abortion-rights supporters in several states have used the citizen initiative process to protect access in the two years since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a constitutional right to the procedure, By Kimberlee Kruesi, Christine Fernando and Leah Willingham, The Washington Post, June 23, 2024, 12:15 PM
Tucked inside the West Virginia Statehouse is a copy of a petition to lawmakers with a simple request: Let the voters decide whether to reinstate legal access to abortion.

The request has been ignored by the Republican lawmakers who have supermajority control in the Legislature and banned abortions in the state in 2022, shortly after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a constitutional right to the procedure.
The petition, with more than 2,500 signatures, is essentially meaningless given the current makeup of the Legislature. But it illustrates the frustratingly limited options millions of Americans face in trying to re-establish abortion rights as the country marks the two-year anniversary since the Supreme Court’s ruling.
West Virginia is among the 25 states that do not allow citizen initiatives or constitutional amendments on a statewide ballot, an avenue of direct democracy that has allowed voters to circumvent their legislatures and preserve abortion and other reproductive rights in a number of states over the past two years.

9. Slur by Francis Lays Bare the Church’s Contradictions on Homosexuality, The pope used homophobic slang and cautioned prelates about admitting gay men into seminaries. But ordination has also long been a refuge for gay faithful., By Emma Bubola and Elisabetta Povoledo, The New York Times, June 22, 2024
When reports spread that Pope Francis had used an offensive anti-gay slur while speaking to Italian bishops at a conference last month, many Catholics were both shocked and baffled. How could a pope known for his openness to and acceptance of L.G.B.T.Q. people use homophobic slang and caution prelates about admitting gay men into seminaries?
But the question, and the apparent inconsistency in Francis’ messaging, reflect the deep contradictions and tensions that underlie the Roman Catholic Church’s and Francis’ relationship to homosexuality.
The church holds that “homosexual tendencies” are “intrinsically disordered.” When it comes to ordination, the church’s guidelines state that people with “deep-seated” gay tendencies should not become priests.
Yet ordination has also long been a refuge of sorts for homosexual Catholic men, according to researchers and priests, who say that at least thousands of clergymen are gay, though only a few are public about their sexual orientation because of the stigma it still carries in the church.
While in the past all of these contradictions were muffled by an aura of taboo, Francis’ recent off-the-cuff comments have thrown them into the open.

10. A memorial for the lives lost to Dobbs, It’s not just the loss of life we mourn. It’s the loss of personhood., By Kate Cohen, The Washington Post, June 21, 2024, 6:45 AM, Opinion
The act authorizing Arkansas’ Monument to the Unborn, passed last year, explains that “from 1973 until 2022, Arkansas was prevented from protecting the life of unborn children” by Supreme Court decisions such as Roe v. Wade.
We all know what happened in 2022. On June 24, in Dobbs v. Jackson, the conservative majority removed federal protection for abortion that had stood for almost 50 years.

The Arkansas birthrate has gone up an estimated 1.4 percent since the state began forcing its residents to carry pregnancies to term. That means about 500 additional births a year. In all states with total bans, including Arkansas and 13 others, the birthrate has increased an average of 2.3 percent. In Texas, where geography makes it especially difficult to travel out of state for an abortion, the rate increased by 5.1 percent. All told, early estimates indicate that the end of Roe accounts for 32,000 annual additional births.
Buried under that approximate number of compulsory births lies another number: the lives that Dobbs has ended.
We need a monument to them.

We don’t know these numbers. We won’t know these numbers.
And we will never know how many lives Dobbs altered, stunted, constrained and burdened. How many educations it deferred or denied, how many careers it derailed, how many families it broke. Every person who is forced to give birth is a person whose life has been unwillingly, irrevocably changed.

11. Democrats move to repeal federal law that forbids abortion materials in U.S. mail, By Matt McDonald, Catholic News Agency, June 21, 2024, 11:30 AM
Democrats worried that a new Trump administration may use a 150-year-old federal law to stop abortion pills from being sent through the mail have announced an attempt to repeal it.
Sen. Tina Smith, D-Minnesota, said in a Thursday press release on her website that she had introduced a bill to repeal the Comstock Act, a law she claimed “Republicans and anti-choice extremists want to misuse to ban abortion nationwide.”
Passed in 1873, the Comstock Act bans in part the usage of the U.S. Postal Service to send any materials that can facilitate or cause abortions.
The portions of the Comstock Act banning the mailing of abortion-causing items have not been enforced for decades, at least since 1973, when the U.S. Supreme Court declared a right to abortion under the federal constitution in Roe v. Wade.


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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