1. Pope says he symbolically kneels in plea for Myanmar peace, By Associated Press, March 17, 2021, 6:42 AM
Pope Francis on Wednesday appealed for bloodshed to end and dialogue to prevail in Myanmar, saying he symbolically kneels in that country’s streets, where protests against the military takeover were continuing and the death toll has mounted.
At the end of his traditional public comments to faithful worldwide, Francis said “yet again, and with so much sadness,” he felt the need to “evoke the dramatic situation in Myanmar, where so many persons, above all young people, are losing their life to offer hope to their country.”
In an apparent reference to widely broadcast images of a nun in Myanmar, kneeling in the street in front of armed security forces, Francis said, “I, too, kneel on the streets of Myanmar and say: may violence cease; I, too, extend my arms and say: may dialogue prevail.”
2. Jesuits in US pledge $100M for racial reconciliation, By David Crary, Associated Press, March 16, 2021, 6:17 PM
The U.S.-based branch of the Jesuits has unveiled ambitious plans for a “truth and reconciliation” initiative in partnership with descendants of people once enslaved by the Roman Catholic order. The Jesuits pledge to raise $100 million within five years with a broader goal of reaching $1 billion from an array of donors in pursuit of racial justice and racial healing.
Even the smaller amount represents the largest financial pledge thus far from a U.S. religious institution, as a variety of them nationwide seek to make amends for their past involvement in slavery and racial oppression.
Partnering with the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States in the initiative is the GU272 Descendants Association, which represents the descendants of 272 enslaved men, women and children sold by the Jesuit owners of Georgetown University to plantation owners in Louisiana in 1838.
3. Equality Act is creating a historic face-off between religious exemptions and LGBTQ rights, By Michelle Boorstein and Samantha Schmidt, The Washington Post, March 16, 2021, 1:39 PM
“We have one shot to get this done. We’ve been trying for 50 years,” said Kasey Suffredini, an attorney and transgender man who heads Freedom for All Americans, a group trying to build bipartisan consensus for the Equality Act.
As written, the act would override existing law that says the federal government must show it has a compelling interest before curbing religious rights. Because of that, many longtime watchers of this conflict believe the bill, which passed in the House, in its current form won’t win approval in the Senate and get to President Biden. So, advocates such as Suffredini are trying to keep dialogue going as the Senate debate starts Wednesday. He is encouraged by the support among a new crop of religious conservatives for some LGBTQ protections, even if they want exemptions.

Among those who have supported some expanded LGBTQ protections are the Mormon Church, Seventh-day Adventists and the Council of Christian Colleges and Universities, the largest network of U.S. Christian higher-education institutions. Shirley Hoogstra is president of the association of 180 theologically conservative schools. The two landmark Supreme Court cases altered the legal reality for conservative, faith-based institutions, which receive many millions through federal partnerships.

She in recent years became a strong advocate of a measure called Fairness for All, which widely broadens LGBTQ protections in public life but allows significant exceptions for faith-based institutions. For example, religious hospitals wouldn’t be required to offer gender-affirming surgeries, religious universities could keep code-of-conduct policies for staff and students that ban gay relationships, and houses of worship that are gender-segregated — such as orthodox synagogues and mosques — wouldn’t lose federal security grants they use to protect themselves from attacks.
Yet including these exceptions has consequences that many say are immoral.

[T]he Equality Act would reframe the legal nature of religious spaces, said Dan Balserak, director of religious liberty at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. “The Equality Act takes these spaces that have traditionally been regarded as privately operated enterprises and brings them in reach of this statute that was intended to combat race discrimination,” he said.

Sister Simone Campbell, an attorney who heads the liberal Catholic advocacy group Network, brushed off conservative faith groups’ concerns, saying the Supreme Court will ensure proper exemptions if needed.
4. Prevost and Cupich: Can the bishops judge themselves?, By Ed. Condon, The Pillar, March 16, 2021, Opinion
The Pillar reported Tuesday morning that Bishop Robert Prevost had, while he was a provincial Augustinian superior in the U.S., permitted a known sexual abuser to reside near a Catholic elementary school without alerting the school or parish to the priest’s presence.
The incident, involving the now-laicized Fr. James Ray, occurred in 2000, before the sexual abuse scandals of last 20 years. Some Church watchers may consider this old news, and rightly note that many hard lessons have been learned by the hierarchy in the intervening years.
But given Prevost’s recent appointment to the Congregation for Bishops in Rome, the incident raises questions about the ability of bishops to apply the rigors of Pope Francis’ zero-tolerance policy in cases of episcopal negligence, in the light of their own administrative records.

In 2018, Cardinal Blase Cupich, also a member of the congregation, apologized for allowing a different priest accused of sexual abuse to live in the same Chicago house.

Broadly, the Chicago examples point to a question about how effectively bishops can judge each other against new laws that criminalize the kind of decision-making once common among their ranks.
As the McCarrick Report made clear, bishops giving each other the benefit of the doubt has been a problem in the Church for decades. While the rules have definitely changed in recent years, personnel can, and sometimes does, equate to policy; it certainly can weigh heavily on how a policy is implemented.
Building a culture of zero-tolerance and mutual accountability among bishops may need a generational shift, and require a new cohort of bishops who have only ever known, and only ever held themselves to, the new standards.
5. German Catholics and Protestants pursue intercommunion despite Vatican objections, By Catholic News Agency, March 16, 2021, 1:00 PM
Catholics and Protestants in Germany announced on Tuesday that they would press ahead with intercommunion at an event in May despite Vatican objections.
In a March 16 press release, organizers of the third Ecumenical Church Congress (ÖKT) in Frankfurt said that they planned to invite Christians to attend celebrations “in many churches” in the city and across Germany on May 15.
6. Portugal’s Catholic bishops welcome presidential veto of euthanasia bill, By Catholic News Agency, March 16, 2021, 2:00 PM
Portugal’s Catholic bishops on Monday welcomed President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa’s decision to veto a bill legalizing euthanasia.
The president issued the veto on March 15 after Portugal’s Constitutional Court ruled that the bill was unconstitutional.
Fr. Manuel Barbosa, the bishops’ spokesman, said: “Any legalization of euthanasia and assisted suicide is always contrary to the affirmation of the dignity of the human person and to the Constitution of the Portuguese Republic.”

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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