1. Social-distancing limits shift worship services online.

By Christopher Vondracek, The Washington Times, March 18, 2020, Pg. A6

Houses of worship increasingly are taking their services online amid restrictions on large gatherings to stem the spread of the coronavirus.

The empty pews resemble those of quarantined Italy, where the Vatican has ordered no public attendance at Mass, including during Holy Week next month.

In the United States, for many religious practitioners, Friday’s prayers, Saturday’s Shabbat, or Sunday’s services are being experienced digitally from the confines of one’s home.

Many faith communities are scrambling to temporarily abridge aspects of their typical faith practice to stem the spread of the virus.

And in an address to D.C.-area Catholics, Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory said he would give dispensation for their weekly Mass obligation, acknowledging the Eucharist constitutes a large part of the mass and is inaccessible in a digital environment.


2. Illinois Rep. Lipinski loses to insurgent Marie Newman in high-profile Democratic primary rematch.

By Mike DeBonis, The Washington Post, March 18, 2020, 12:46 AM

Rep. Daniel Lipinski (D-Ill.), one of the last antiabortion Democrats in Congress, lost his bid for renomination to a ninth term Tuesday to a more liberal challenger, business executive and activist Marie Newman.

The race had been closely watched as a test of whether a socially conservative Democrat could maintain support among the party’s base in a solid blue seat — and whether the dwindling number of Democratic lawmakers opposing abortion would be further culled by primary voters.


3. New Zealand passes landmark law to decriminalize abortion.

By Nick Perry, Associated Press, March 18, 2020, 4:50 AM

While views about abortions have generally become much more liberal in New Zealand since Sparrow’s experience, the law, while updated in 1977, had not fully reflected that change.

Until Wednesday’s vote, the procedure was still regulated under the Crimes Act, requiring women to prove to a doctor that their pregnancy presented a danger to their physical or mental health before they could get an abortion.

The new law removes those obstacles, allowing women who are up to 20 weeks pregnant to get an abortion and those over 20 weeks to get one with approval from a health practitioner.


4. New poll shows Catholics have more favorable opinion of Church than last year.

By Christopher White, Crux, March 18, 2020

While Catholics in the U.S. continue to grapple with fallout stemming from the clergy abuse scandals, new polling suggests that Catholics have a higher opinion of the Church than they did this time last year.

According to data from the Saint Leo University Polling Institute, the favorable opinion – those who responded strongly and somewhat favorably – was recorded at 73.5 percent, up from 69.3 percent in November 2019.

In addition, the new data shows a significant increase from April 2019, where U.S. Catholics only expressed a 57.1 percent level of favorability.

Meanwhile, seven years into papacy, Francis has suffered a dip from 56.6 percent in November 2019 to 52.2 percent in the latest round of polling among the general population. Since St. Leo first began their polling, the numbers have ranged from 64.4 percent in August 2018 to 44.7 percent in October 2018, to a now midway point between the two.


5. On the coronavirus, rapid aging, falling fertility and Humanae Vitae.

By John L. Allen Jr., Crux, March 18, 2020, Opinion

Amid the scramble to find a cure for the coronavirus and, in the meantime, to enforce restrictive measures to try to slow down its expansion, there’s been relatively little attention to the underlying factors which may explain why some places have been harder hit, more quickly, than others.

One emerging hypothesis, however, is that there may be a correlation between declining fertility rates and rapidly rising elderly populations in many societies around the world, and the extent to which those societies have been impacted by the coronavirus.

For the Catholic Church, which has sounded alarms about declining fertility for decades, the situation could offer a grim confirmation of its diagnosis that a rapidly aging society places its future in jeopardy – though no one’s likely to celebrate that it’s required a global pandemic which, to date, has claimed more than 7,000 lives, to put the issue back on the table.

For the Catholic Church and other advocates of encouraging people to have children, this is undoubtedly not the time to shout “ah-hah” or strike notes that could be construed as triumphal. For one thing, the epidemiological data is incomplete, there’s real concern some countries may be significantly under-reporting their infection rates, testing is uneven, and it’s far too early to draw definitive conclusions from the coronavirus.

On the other hand, there’s a common-sense instinct that says a society with a higher share of younger and basically healthy people probably is in a better position to absorb the shocks of a public health crisis, whereas a society with a disproportionate share of people at higher risk will face greater challenges.

When St. Paul VI sounded an alarm about the spread of artificial birth control and a growing closure to life in his controversial encyclical Humanae Vitae in 1968, the argument was largely couched in moral and spiritual terms. Paul argued that the “unitive” and “procreative” purposes of marriage are intrinsically linked, and it’s a moral mistake to attempt to separate them.

Since that time, however, the risks of overly aggressive efforts to limit population growth also have become apparent on practical grounds. Economists Nicholas Eberstadt and Hans Growth, to take one example, have argued that falling birth rates “portend ominous change in economic prospects, major increases in public debt burdens, and slower economic growth,” largely because they produce a shrinking workforce.


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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