TCA Podcast, – “Conversations with Consequences,” Episode 256 – Father Kirby On The Mental Sufferings Of Christ & Kate Ashbrook Talks A Purposeful Day! Marking Down Syndrome Awareness Month, we talk with Kate Ashbrook about her efforts to help adults with special needs through her organization, A Purposeful Day. As we enter into Passiontide, Father Jeffrey Kirby discusses the mental suffering of Christ as we get nearer to Holy Week. Father Roger Landry also offers an inspiring homily to prepare us for this Sunday’s Gospel. Catch the show every Saturday at 7amET/5pmET on EWTN radio! 1. The Real Lessons of the Alabama IVF Ruling, The regulation of the fertility industry is strangely underdeveloped, leaving parents, children, clinics, and practitioners lacking even basic information, protections, and boundaries., By Yuval Levin and O. Carter Snead, The Atlantic, March 15, 2024, Opinion When the Alabama Supreme Court found on February 16 that frozen embryos are protected by the state’s wrongful-death law in the same way that embryos inside a mother’s womb are, it set off one of those depressing and familiar 21st-century political firestorms. The court had heard a complicated civil case touching on questions about the rights of families undergoing in vitro fertilization and the responsibilities of the fertility industry—questions that have long been neglected, to the great detriment of the millions of American families who seek to have children by IVF each year. But just about everyone with anything to say about the Alabama case has evaded these difficult questions and resorted instead to a more familiar framework: the debate over abortion. This is an understandable impulse—both involve human beings before birth. But it’s not so simple. And for decades, the misguided conflation of abortion and reproductive technologies has left the regulation of the fertility industry strangely underdeveloped. Parents, children, clinics, and practitioners have been left, in turn, lacking even basic information, protections, and boundaries. The Alabama ruling, understood in its proper context, was not some theocratic power grab, but a straightforward statutory interpretation that should help our society grasp its responsibility to create better guardrails for this industry, and for the families involved.  Prominent Democrats quickly embraced this treatment of the case. President Joe Biden said the decision showed a “disregard for women’s ability to make these decisions for themselves and their families,” called it “outrageous and unacceptable,” and stated: “Make no mistake, this is a direct result of the overturning of Roe v. Wade.” Vice President Kamala Harris said the Alabama court was “robbing women of the freedom to decide when and how to build a family.” These comments ignored the fact that the Alabama plaintiffs were IVF patients, not anti-abortion activists. And they failed to note that the Alabama law protecting unborn children from wrongful death outside the context of abortion predated and did not depend on the Supreme Court’s recent abortion ruling. Several fertility clinics in Alabama went along with the widespread misrepresentation of the case’s implications, announcing that they would halt fertility treatment as a result of the court’s ruling unless the state legislature acted to reverse the court’s decision. This looks to have been less a response to a threat to the practice of assisted reproduction than a move to evade legal liability and oversight. The kind of scenario that unfolded in the clinic in question, with an unauthorized individual walking through the facility and handling frozen embryos, is obviously not how the IVF industry generally seeks to operate. It is precisely the kind of breakdown of standards that laws against negligence exist to address, and which calls for greater industry regulation more generally. But instead, and in response to the widespread distortions of the case in the national media and to threats from clinics in the state to stop providing IVF treatments, the state legislature exempted the industry from (and thereby denied the families it serves) even the basic consumer protections available in every other domain, let alone the sorts of guardrails that should be available when vulnerable parents and children are involved. The legislature quickly and overwhelmingly passed (and the governor immediately signed into law) a bill that created blanket civil and criminal immunity for any person or entity who causes “damage to or death” of an embryonic human being when “providing or receiving services related to in vitro fertilization.” In its haste, the legislature created a bizarre anomaly. No other branch of medicine, and no other facet of the health-care industry, enjoys such freedom to act with impunity. The result was perverse but painfully familiar: Policy makers, practitioners, and political activists purporting (and in many cases genuinely intending) to act in the name of vulnerable parents and children instead only advanced the interests of an already-sheltered industry, and left a fraught and sensitive domain of our society even more exposed and unprotected.  The Alabama case, and the legislature’s reaction to its aftermath, highlights the shallowness of our society’s engagement with the benefits and challenges posed by artificial reproduction. Offering better protection to the families involved, rather than leaving them more exposed, would be the least a responsible state legislature could do in response to the circumstances revealed by the litigation.  But ultimately, consumer protection is only the most crude of the tools our society should employ to protect Americans in this sensitive domain. The would-be parents seeking fertility treatment and the children they bring into the world are not, first and foremost, consumers, let alone political combatants. They are families, held together by a bond of love and mutual obligation, and dependent upon one another and on the support of the larger society. Both the practice and the regulation of assisted reproduction should proceed from the understanding that the animating goal is to form a family, which requires consideration of both the parents and the children, at all stages of the children’s development and at every step of the parents’ treatment process. In any decent society, parents and children have a claim on all of us for support. Such support calls for the quality that has been most sorely lacking in the political response to the Alabama controversy: responsibility. It demands that we see fertility treatment in all its human dimensions, that we sympathize with the people involved, and that we also grasp the ways in which the most vulnerable among them sometimes need protection. Yuval Levin is director of Social, Cultural, and Constitutional Studies at the American Enterprise Institute and the editor of National Affairs. O. Carter Snead is a law professor at the University of Notre Dame and the author of What It Means to be Human: The Case for the Body in Public Bioethics. 2. Vatican says women deacons, not celibacy, on docket for synod, By Elise Ann Allen, Crux, March 15, 2024 Organizers of Pope Francis’s ongoing Synod of Bishops on Synodality announced Thursday that ten different working groups had been formed in the Roman Curia to address specific topics that came out of last year’s session. These topics, they said, are restricted to issues mentioned inside of the synod hall and include hot-button questions such as women’s access to the diaconate and ways of welcoming the LGBTQ+ community. Asked specifically whether the working groups would touch on issues of homosexuality and the women’s diaconate, Monsignor Piero Coda, secretary general of the International Theological Commission, said “of course they are on the agenda,” and that various materials will be included in the reflection on these topics.  However, asked whether a working group dedicated to the relationship between the Latin and Eastern Catholic Churches would address the disputed question of mandatory priestly celibacy, Cardinal Mario Grech, secretary general of the Vatican office for the Synod of Bishops, said no. “The topic of celibacy was never put on the table during the assembly,” Grech said. Similarly, Jesuit Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich of Luxembourg, general relator for the Synod on Synodality, stressed the importance of recalling that “these study groups don’t treat all topics discussed in the Church.” 3. Democrats’ coming abortion onslaught, GOP needs positive message to combat campaign issue, By The Washington Times, March 15, 2024, Editorial In his divisive State of the Union speech last week, President Biden signaled his reelection campaign’s theme will be abortion. He can’t talk about the economy as his predecessors have done, given that three years of “Bidenomics” have cumulatively left us with prices 18% higher than when he took office. This is why the president wagged his finger at members of the Supreme Court on hand for the annual address, scolding them over their 2022 ruling in Dobbs[.] The harsh words are a preview of the pro-abortion onslaught about to hit the campaign trail, and the GOP should be ready to respond. As Democrats’ attack ads bombard suburban female voters, Republicans can court the same demographic by just as relentlessly pointing out how Democrats have thrown women under the bus in favor of transgender “women,” a vanishingly small but vociferous constituency. Adamant assertions to the contrary notwithstanding, transgender “women” are not women in a biological or real sense. It creates many problems for women if biological men need only claim they “identify” as women to be granted access to women’s private spaces, such as restrooms and locker rooms.  For a political party that claims to stand for fairness and women’s rights, Democrats should be made to own their creation of an unfair and unsafe playing field for girls and women. That’s especially true in light of a new Rasmussen poll of 1,000 registered voters released this week that found that by better than a 7-to-1 margin, respondents said that biological males who claim to be female should not be allowed to participate in girls’ and women’s athletics. This is a winning issue that puts the GOP on the side of “women’s issues” at a time when the party finds itself on the defensive. It may turn out that the left has underestimated the power of women — especially when it comes to mothers protecting their daughters. 4. Polish Catholics get a new leader as the church struggles to reckon with sexual abuse, By Associated Press, March 14, 2024, 3:00 PM The leaders of Poland’s influential Catholic Church on Thursday chose moderate Archbishop Tadeusz Wojda to be their new principal, at a time when the church is still struggling to reckon with the abuse of minors by some Polish clergy, while the number of Poles going to church has fallen sharply. At a two-day conference, bishops and archbishops elected Gdansk Archpishop Wojda, 67, to replace the conservative Archbp. Stanislaw Gądecki, of Poznan, as the head of the Polish Episcopate, for a five-year term, a communique said. More than 90% of Poles, a nation of some 38 million, are still officially members of the Catholic Church, but figures from 2022 showed less than a third of Catholics attended mass, according to the church’s statistical institute. For 27 years, from 1990 until 2017, Wojda served at the Vatican’s Congregation for the Evangelizations of Peoples, during the terms of three popes: Polish-born John Paul II, Benedict XVI and Francis. He was then appointed archbishop of Bialystok, in eastern Poland, bordering Belarus. In 2021, he was made archbishop of Gdansk. 5. A Wisconsin ruling on Catholic Charities raises the bar for religious tax exemptions, By Todd Richmond, Associated Press, March 14, 2024, 2:44 PM Exemptions that allow religious organizations to avoid paying Wisconsin’s unemployment tax don’t apply to a Catholic charitable organization because its on-the-ground operations aren’t primarily religious, a divided state Supreme Court ruled Thursday. The outcome of the case, which drew attention and concern from religious groups around the country, raises the bar for all religions to show that their charity arms deserve such exemptions in the state. The Catholic organization’s attorneys immediately promised to appeal directly to the U.S. Supreme Court. If that court agrees to hear the case, any ruling could have broad national implications. The Wisconsin court ruled 4-3 that the Superior-based Catholic Charities Bureau and its subentities’ motivation to help older, disabled and low-income people stems from Catholic teachings but that its actual work is secular. 6. Nearly 500 victims of church sex abuse in France have received financial compensation, By Barbara Surk, Associated Press, March 14, 2024, 11:17 AM Hundreds of victims of child sexual abuse by priests or church representatives have received financial compensation so far from France’s Catholic Church under a sweeping reparations program, an independent body in charge of the process said Thursday. An annual report by the Independent National Authority for Recognition and Reparation said 1,351 victims came forward to claim compensation and seek psychological support in an effort to recover from childhood trauma. The average age of victims who have come forward is 61, Marie Derain de Vaucresson, the head of the body said during a news conference Thursday. Of them, 66%, are men and 34% are women, she said. The claims process started in 2022. So far, the reparations authority has approved compensation claims of 489 victims, the report said. Of those, 88 people were granted the maximum of 60,000 euros ($65,000). Last year, 358 victims’ compensation claims were approved, with each individual granted an average amount of 35,310 euros, the report said. 7. Pope Francis is out to prove he’s just a regular guy, In a new memoir, ‘Life: My Story Through History,’ and a self-help book, ‘A Good Life,’ the pope reinforces his image as approachable, By Michelle Boorstein, The Washington Post, March 14, 2024, 12:47 PM, Opinion It seems hard to believe that just a few short popes ago (and in the centuries preceding) no one, including Catholics, had any real connection with the human running things from the throne of Saint Peter in Rome. Popes stayed in Italy and didn’t travel, and low-level technology meant Catholics didn’t expect to see or hear from them. Popes would put out authoritative documents now and then called “encyclicals,” but it took time for the messages to trickle out. And even then, average Catholics didn’t usually read the pope’s words; they didn’t feel qualified to interpret them. Catholics didn’t define themselves like many do today — especially in polarized America — by their affinity to the pope. No one has done more to make real the face of the papacy than Argentine priest Jorge Mario Bergoglio, otherwise known as Pope Francis. He approves apps that offer his sayings in quippy form, gives chatty interviews, and is known for eschewing fancy homes and clothing. Instead, he takes public transportation, wears clunky orthotic shoes, and says such things as “I am a sinner — that’s not a figure of speech” and, of gay people, “Who am I to judge?” This radical approachability has become a hallmark since Francis took office in 2013, redrawing the face of the 1.4 billion-person Catholic Church. Many people have loved and been profoundly moved by this change, seeing Francis as a symbol of an outward-looking church focused on accessibility, intimate connection and inclusivity. Many others oppose his frequent blurring of lines, saying he’s harming the church by making the papacy smaller. In two new books, Francis takes concrete steps toward setting this everyman-pope in stone for literary history. Through “Life,” which will publish Tuesday and is described as his first crack at autobiography, and a second book, called “A Good Life: 15 Essential Habits for Living With Hope and Joy,” the 87-year-old is making it really official: The pope is just a guy. 8. The quest to hear the Catholic Church in America’s ‘True Confessions’, By Pablo Kay, Angelus, March 12, 2024, Interview What’s really going on in the Catholic Church in the United States right now?  In many parts of the country, the hard numbers reflect a sobering reality: declines in baptisms, marriages, and ordinations to the priesthood; closing parishes and shrinking dioceses. In others, signs of growth where immigrants seem to be counteracting those trends.  What’s harder to pin down is the overall “mood” of Catholics in the U.S. Lately, they’ve witnessed a reawakening of the clergy sexual abuse crisis, endured the effects of a pandemic, and been largely indifferent to an ongoing synod styled as a listening exercise that sought out their input on the state of the Church.  At the same time, words like “vibrant” and “robust” are frequently used by leaders — particularly bishops — to describe thriving ministries and success stories. Enthusiasm is building toward the National Eucharistic Revival planned by the country’s bishops, set to culminate with a large-scale pilgrimage to Indianapolis this summer.   But rather than try to break down the numbers and figures, veteran Church communicator Francis X. Maier had a different idea: Talk to Americans serving the Church — bishops, priests, and laypeople — give them the option of remaining anonymous (in order to be able to speak more freely) and gather their thoughts in a book. The result, titled “True Confessions” (Ignatius Press, $24.95) represents a doctor’s checkup of sorts on the state of the U.S. church, offering a snapshot of its hopes and fears, as well as its strengths and its sicknesses. After reading it, I asked Maier, who’s had a storied career as a screenwriter, journalist, and senior adviser to retired Archbishop Charles Chaput (in both Denver and Philadelphia) about his experience with the project and what he took away from it.

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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