1. Australia’s Highest Court Delays Decision on Cardinal Pell’s Appeal.

By Rachel Pannett, The Wall Street Journal, March 12, 2020, 7:40 AM

Australia’s highest court withheld its decision on an appeal by former Vatican finance chief Cardinal George Pell of his conviction for child sex abuse, prolonging a legal battle that has bitterly divided Australian society and Catholics around the world.

The judges decided Thursday to reserve their decision, meaning they won’t offer a verdict yet. Reserving their judgment gives the judges more time to consider the arguments and make written statements outlining their reasons.

They could acquit the cardinal or uphold his conviction, or they could send the case to be reheard at the Victoria Court of Appeals. It may be days or months before the High Court releases its decision. If the judges believe an innocent person is behind bars, they could make an order soon, paving the way for his release, and publish the written reasons later, legal experts said.


2. The Supreme Court’s Fictional Middle Ground on Abortion: There is no such thing.

By Linda Greenhouse, The New York Times, March 12, 2020, 5:00 AM, Opinion

Following last week’s argument in a Louisiana abortion case, the consensus among attentive Supreme Court-watchers is that the outcome depends on Chief Justice John Roberts, who seemed not to share Justice Samuel Alito’s visceral dislike of abortion clinics and his deep suspicion of doctors who work in them. I agree.

Further, many of these close observers came away believing that even if the justices rule for Louisiana, they will take neither of the two drastic steps being pressed on the court by the state and its White House ally: to reject four decades of settled law under which doctors can challenge abortion restrictions on their patients’ behalf, or to overturn the 2016 decision that struck down the same admitting-privileges requirement in Texas that Louisiana is now defending.

I agree with that prediction as well. The chief justice seemed to be probing for ways within the framework of the 2016 decision that Louisiana might be different from Texas, either because of a more persuasive rationale for requiring clinic doctors in Louisiana to have hospital admitting privileges or because the requirement imposes a lesser obstacle to abortion access in Louisiana than it did in Texas.


3. Abortion Motive Law Heard By Judges.

By Jacob Gershman, The Wall Street Journal, March 12, 2020, Pg. A3

A federal appeals-court case heard Wednesday in Ohio could help shape a contentious question in abortion law: Should a woman be allowed to terminate a pregnancy because of the fetus’s disability, race or gender?

The full Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is considering the validity of an Ohio law that makes it illegal for a physician to perform an abortion on a woman whose motivation is fear that the fetus has Down syndrome. Abortion opponents say the case is winnable in one of the nation’s most conservative legal venues and could send the issue to the Supreme Court.


4. Italian Priests Struggle to Tend to Sick While Avoiding Contagion: Strict rules to contain the coronavirus epidemic are forcing Catholic clergy to set aside an essential mission to avoid becoming infected.

By Francis X. Rocca, The Wall Street Journal, March 12, 2020, 8:00 AM

When the Bubonic Plague struck Milan from 1629 to 1631, the city’s Capuchin Franciscan friars distinguished themselves in running a hospital designated for victims of the disease. Most died while caring for the sick.

Today, Italy’s strict rules to contain the coronavirus epidemic bar five modern-day friars working at a hospital in nearby Bergamo from contact with Covid-19 patients lest they, too, become infected and spread the virus. It’s a genuine quandary for the Capuchins, and for the Catholic Church at large.


5. Activists to help Nigeria’s embattled Christians.

By Madison Hirneisen, The Washington Times, March 12, 2020, Pg. A12

International activists are sounding the alarm over what they say is the pervasive and violent persecution of Christians in Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation, pressing the Trump administration Wednesday at a Washington press briefing to appoint a special presidential envoy to address the problem.

The International Committee on Nigeria (ICON) launched a campaign Wednesday titled the “Silent Slaughter” to raise awareness about the estimated more than 60,000 Nigerians who have died as a result of religious conflicts since 2001. Already this year, ICON reports more than 400 Nigerians were killed because of their Christian faith, with thousands more displaced.


6. Poll shows pope’s country doesn’t know what the Church does, doesn’t go to Mass.

By Inés San Martín, Crux, March 12, 2020

As bishops from Pope Francis’s native Argentina figure out how to pay their own salaries instead of taking funds from the state, a new poll shows that while seven in ten Argentines declare themselves to be Catholic, six in ten don’t know what activities the Church is doing in the country and seven in ten attend Mass less than once a month.


7. Coronavirus scare has bought the Vatican some time … how will they use it?

By John L. Allen Jr., Crux, March 12, 2020, Opinion

In a nutshell, that’s the situation for Pope Francis and his Vatican team today: Facing a ticking clock on several fronts, the coronavirus has bought them some time. The question is how they’ll use it.

Here are at least five fronts where the question is especially urgent.

Holy Week

Officials in China’s Wuhan province announced only Tuesday that they would begin lifting their own controls, a full 50 days after imposing them, because that’s how long it took for the infection rate to drop to a point where it was considered safe. If a similar arc unfolds here, it would push well beyond the April 12 date of Easter, meaning the Vatican and bishops in areas potentially facing similar measures need to be planning now for a Holy Week under lockdown.


Four days ago, the Mexican bishops’ conference announced that a visit planned for March 20-27 by Maltese Archbishop Charles Scicluna, Assistant Secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and Pope Francis’s point man on the clerical abuse crisis, and Spanish Monsignor Jordi Bertomeu, had been postponed to an indefinite future date because of the coronavirus scare.

Right now nobody’s beating down the Vatican’s door to find out how it plans to handle the Mexican situation – in part, because restrictions on entry to St. Peter’s Square these days mean that most people can’t even reach the door. Sooner or later, however, the question will arise again.

The McCarrick Report
Speaking of things no one’s asking about right now, the Vatican still hasn’t issued its long-awaited report on who knew what, and when, about abuse and misconduct charges against ex-cardinal and ex-priest Theodore McCarrick.

Given how much is at stake, this is probably a good time to be trying to make the report as bullet-proof as possible … because whenever it does finally appear, it’s likely the big guns will be out.

Vatican Reform
Another document expected to come out soon before the coronavirus put things on hold was Praedicate Evangelium, the working title of Pope Francis’s new apostolic constitution on the Roman Curia. It’s designed to institutionalize, and give legal shape, to his much-ballyhooed reform of the Vatican.

The stakes were already high, given perceptions in many quarters that at least to date, the reform has been more verbal than real. They became even higher over the past weekend, when the Vatican first announced the creation of a new HR office as a “step of great importance” in reform, and then, just over 24 hours later, made a second announcement indicating that the office is just an idea, not a fait accompli, and the pope will decide in his own good time.

The about-face left many insiders scratching their heads, wondering who’s running this railroad. It hasn’t had much of an external echo so far because of the distraction of the coronavirus, but that won’t last forever.

Prior to the coronavirus crisis, Moneyval, the Council of Europe’s anti-money laundering agency, was set to conduct its next evaluation of the Vatican towards the end of April.

Almost certainly, the Moneyval evaluation will be delayed – but “delayed” is not the same thing as “canceled,” and eventually the Vatican will have to answer the questions its inspectors are almost certain to ask.

Now, therefore, would be a great time to figure out what those answers might be.


8. U.S. Upbraids China Over Human Rights: Pompeo, issuing human rights report, repeats that China’s treatment of Muslims represents the ‘stain of the century’

By Jessica Donati, The Wall Street Journal, March 11, 2020, 5:14 PM

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo singled out China’s treatment of religious minorities as one of the world’s worst examples of abuse as he presented the State Department’s annual report on human rights on Wednesday.

The report said that China’s Communist Party, or CCP, has detained over a million Uighurs, ethnic Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, and other Muslims in internment camps designed to erase their religious and ethnic identities, under the pretext of fighting terrorism.


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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