1. Biden health pick taking heat for support of abortion rights, By Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar and Thomas Beaumont, Associated Press, March 3, 2021, 12:13 AM
President Joe Biden’s pick for health secretary is taking heat from Republicans for his actions in support of abortion rights. They want to define him — and the new administration — as out of the mainstream.
The nomination of Xavier Becerra faces a key vote Wednesday in the Senate Finance committee. It’s a test, too, for national groups opposed to abortion, trying to deny a president who favors abortion rights his choice to run the Department of Health and Human Services.
Becerra is paying a price for defending, as California attorney general, some of the nation’s most liberal laws and policies on abortion rights.
2. Intense preparations before pontiff meets Iraqi ayatollah, By Qassim Abdul-Zahra and Samya Kullab, Associated Press, March 3, 2021, 1:23 AM
In Iraq’s holiest city, a pontiff will meet a revered ayatollah and make history with a message of coexistence in a place plagued by bitter divisions.
One is the chief pastor of the world-wide Catholic Church, the other a pre-eminent figure in Shiite Islam whose opinion holds powerful sway on the Iraqi street and beyond. Their encounter will resonate across Iraq, even crossing borders into neighboring, mainly Shiite Iran.
Pope Francis and Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani are to meet on Saturday for at most 40 minutes, part of the time alone except for interpreters, in the Shiite cleric’s modest home in the city of Najaf. Every detail was scrutinized ahead of time in painstaking, behind-the-scenes preparations that touched on everything from shoes to seating arrangements.

For Iraq’s dwindling Christian minority, a show of solidarity from al-Sistani could help secure their place in Iraq after years of displacement — and, they hope, ease intimidation from Shiite militiamen against their community.
3. Catholic clergy in France abused over 10,000 child victims, an independent commission estimated, By Rick Noack, The Washington Post, March 3, 2021, Pg. A1
The head of a commission examining sexual abuse in France’s Catholic Church put the possible number of child victims at more than 10,000 on Tuesday, portending a public reckoning in a country where church officials long stalled efforts to investigate complicity.
The Independent Commission on Sexual Abuse in the Church, set up two years ago with the approval of French church officials, has so far received more than 6,500 testimonies from victims and witnesses on incidents alleged to have happened in the past seven decades.
4. Catholic philanthropists launch safeguarding initiative against abuse, By Christopher White, National Catholic Reporter, March 3, 2021
Two years after Pope Francis summoned the heads of bishops’ conferences around the world to Rome to confront clergy abuse among their own ranks, Catholic philanthropists are following his lead with a new initiative aimed to encourage Catholic funders to promote safeguarding in their own organizations and philanthropic efforts.
The newly launched multi-year program, “Commitment to Child and Vulnerable Adult Protection” is led by Foundations and Donors Interested in Catholic Activities (FADICA), an umbrella organization representing over 50 member organizations and individuals. It encourages those funders to sign a pledge to review their own internal safeguarding policies, as well as that of their grantee partners.

To date, 17 of FADICA’s nearly 50 partner organizations have signed onto the pledge, including the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation and the Raskob Foundation for Catholic Activities, whose representatives spoke at the virtual launch event webinar hosted last month.
5. U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops says to avoid Johnson & Johnson vaccine if possible, By Jaclyn Peiser, The Washington Post, March 2, 2021, 7:19 PM
On Tuesday, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops urged Catholics to avoid taking the Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine and to choose alternatives from Pfizer or Moderna instead because Johnson & Johnson used cells derived decades ago from an abortion to create the vaccine.
The bishops’ recommendation follows a similar one from the Archdiocese of New Orleans last week and a recommendation from a Food and Drug Administration expert panel over the weekend approving the Johnson & Johnson shot.
6. Pope’s risky Iraq trip aims to boost Christians, By Nicole Winfield, Associated Press, March 2, 2021, Opinion
Pope Francis is pushing ahead with the first papal trip to Iraq despite rising coronavirus infections, hoping to encourage the country’s dwindling number of Christians who were violently persecuted during the Islamic State group’s insurgency while seeking to boost ties with the Shiite Muslim world.
Security is a concern for the March 5-8 visit, given the continued presence of rogue Shiite militias. Francis, who relishes plunging into crowds and zipping around in his popemobile, is expected to travel in an armored car with a sizeable security detail. The Vatican hopes the measures will have the dual effect of protecting the pope while discouraging contagion-inducing crowds.
Francis’ visit is the culmination of two decades of efforts to bring a pope to the birthplace of Abraham, the prophet central to Christian, Muslim and Jewish faiths.
The trip will give Francis — and the world — a close-up look at the devastation wrought by the 2014-2017 IS reign, which destroyed hundreds of Christian-owned homes and churches in the north, and sent tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians and other religious minorities fleeing.
7. Vatican defends pope’s Iraq trip amid virus as ‘act of love’, By Nicole Winfield, Associated Press, March 2, 2021, 9:40 PM
The Vatican defended Pope Francis’ decision to go ahead with his trip to Iraq this weekend despite rising coronavirus infections there, saying Tuesday all health care precautions have been taken and that the trip is an “act of love for this land, for its people and for its Christians.”
Francis is due to visit Iraq Friday-Monday in his first foreign trip since the pandemic erupted last year.
8. White House silent on conscience concerns in health care, By Catholic News Agency, March 2, 2021, 2:00 PM
The White House on Tuesday would not reveal its position on doctors being forced to perform abortions and gender-transition surgeries under the Equality Act.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki would not directly answer questions by EWTN News Nightly White House correspondent Owen Jensen on conscience rights in health care, at Tuesday’s White House press briefing.
Jensen brought up the Equality Act, which passed the House last week and which outlaws “pregnancy discrimination” and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.
The U.S. bishops’ conference (USCCB), as well as pro-life groups, have warned that the legislation would essentially create rights to procedures such as abortion, sterilization, and gender-transition surgery. The bill could also eviscerate conscience protections of health care workers opposed to participating in these procedures, these groups have warned.
9. Pope Francis: World could face a new ‘great flood’, By Catholic News Agency, March 2, 2021, 1:00 PM
Pope Francis said in a new book released on Tuesday that the world could face a catastrophe like the Great Flood if human beings fail to address climate change.
The pope made the remark in a new book-length interview with the Italian priest Fr. Marco Pozza published on March 2.
In “Of Vices and Virtues” (“Dei vizi e delle virtù”), published in Italian by Rizzoli, the two men discussed the account of the Great Flood in the Book of Genesis.
According to an excerpt from the book in the newspaper Corriere delle Sera, the pope said: “A great flood, perhaps due to a rise in temperature and the melting of glaciers: that is what will happen if we continue on the same path.”
10. Chicago parish to withhold $100k: The sum, and the canonical issues, explained, By The Pillar, March 2, 2021
A Chicago parish made headlines this weekend, saying it planned to withhold $100,000 dollars per month from the archdiocese until a canonical investigation is concluded into the parish’s suspended pastor, Fr. Michael Pfleger. A parish spokesperson explained the sum, and the parish’s decision, which also raises questions about who exactly is leading the parish during Pfleger’s absence.
A statement, issued Sunday by the “cabinet” at St. Sabina Parish in Chicago, drew attention for the large sum the parish school said it would keep back – adding up to more than $1 million annually. 
A spokesperson for the parish of St. Sabina clarified to The Pillar that the Archdiocese of Chicago levies an income assessment on the parish of 10%, amounting to some $13,000 per month.
But the parish sends more than $100,000 monthly to the archdiocese because of other financial obligations to the archdiocese and administered through it, including property and liability insurance payments, the spokesperson said. All such payments are being withheld until the resolution of Pfleger’s case, the spokesperson said.
A statement released Sunday by the parish, located on Chicago’s South Side, said withholding the money is “the next strategic move to keep the pressure on the Archdiocese to expedite the alleged abuse investigation” into Pfleger.

Withholding funds marks an escalation in a standoff between the parish and chancery authorities that began shortly after Cardinal Blase Cupich announced that he had asked Fr. Pfleger to “step aside” from ministry in January, following an accusation of sexual abuse dating back decades.
Pfleger is a well known priest of the archdiocese, famous for his social justice activism and deep connection to the local community. News of the accusation against the priest was greeted with skepticism by his parishioners, who have demanded that the archdiocese close its canonical investigation and return him to ministry.

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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