TCA Podcast, – “Conversations with Consequences,” Episode 254 – Fran Maier Talks True Confessions & Brad Wilcox On Why You Should Get Married! With the release of his new book, True Confessions, editor and EPPC scholar Fran Maier takes readers on a journey through the life of the Church featuring interviews with notable bishops, Catholic thought leaders, and his favorite: ‘the invisible people in the church (who) have the most interesting perspective.’ Touching on topics that cause great division today, the book shares the many reasons why US Catholics love the church despite the challenges we face. Brad Wilcox also joins with a look at his new book, Get MarriedFather Roger Landry offers an inspiring homily to prepare us for this Sunday’s Gospel. Catch the show every Saturday at 7amET/5pmET on EWTN radio! 1. FDA v. Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine: Brief Of Dr. Grazie Pozo Christie And The Catholic Association Foundation As Amici Curiae In Support Of Respondents, By Dr. Grazie Pozo Christie, The Supreme Court of the United States, Amicus Brief  The FDA’s 2016 and 2021 deregulatory decisions affecting mifepristone pose severe health risks to women for many reasons, including because those decisions removed the requirement of an initial in-person visit where an ultrasound would be performed to date the pregnancy and diagnose (or rule out) an ectopic pregnancy. The FDA has approved the use of the chemical abortion drug mifepristone only through the first 70 days of pregnancy. Using mifepristone after this time exposes a woman to an increased risk of severe and even life-threatening medical complications, including complications that arise when mifepristone initiates but does not complete the intended abortion. Mifepristone also risks life-threatening complications when used to terminate an embryo located outside the uterus, known as an “ectopic pregnancy.” These risks are avoided when a physician uses an ultrasound to date a woman’s pregnancy and determine the location of the embryo or fetus. By eliminating the requirement of an in-person visit before dispensing mifepristone, the FDA has ensured that many women will not receive a diagnostic ultrasound and will not know the accurate date of their pregnancy or the location of their embryo or fetus before taking mifepristone. Eliminating this safeguard causes women to suffer needlessly and even face death. The resulting medical complications for women will be handled in emergency rooms. Without the critical information that an in-person visit and ultrasound provides, women are more likely to take mifepristone in riskier circumstances, including when the gestational age of a pregnancy is greater than 70 days or when the woman is experiencing an ectopic pregnancy. The FDA’s own label for mifepristone admits that the drug will result in emergency room care for roughly one in 25 women who take it. J.A.533. Emergency room treatment after mifepristone may include taking medical action to complete an incomplete abortion. The FDA’s unlawful deregulation of mifepristone will lead to a predictable rise in avoidable emergency room visits, which will in turn have a significant impact on Catholic hospitals and healthcare providers. Catholic hospitals and healthcare providers have a long history of providing care for the sick and the needy regardless of their patients’ background or beliefs, and of doing so in a way that honors Catholic teaching, wisdom, and principles on the dignity of life, from conception to natural death. The FDA’s endorsement of unsupervised mifepristone use will send more women to emergency rooms with medical complications from mifepristone, including women seeking to complete incomplete abortions. In these circumstances, Catholic hospitals and healthcare providers could be forced to engage in practices that violate their deeply held religious beliefs and rights of conscience. The rise of avoidable emergency room visits due to mifepristone will also divert Catholic hospitals and healthcare providers from the life-saving care they provide to other patients. Catholic hospitals and healthcare providers want nothing more than to continue to provide their vital services. 2. Supreme Court’s abortion pill battle is about safety — not abortion access, say pro-life litigants, By Alex Swoyer, The Washington Times, March 4, 2024 The lawyer representing a group of pro-life doctors in a challenge to the abortion pill said the Supreme Court case isn’t about abortion but about product safety laws, arguing the Food and Drug Administration ran afoul of federal law in easing the distribution of mifepristone. Erin Hawley, senior counsel with the Alliance Defending Freedom, said the FDA eased restrictions on the abortion pill’s distribution in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act. The FDA had moved to limit the number of in-person doctor visits needed to obtain the drug and also allow it to be used longer into pregnancy. The changes have led to more women ending up in emergency rooms, according to Ms. Hawley’s client, Dr. Christina Francis, CEO of the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists. “This particular case is not about access, but just making sure that if women are going to take these drugs, that there is some minimum requirement of safety,” said Ms. Hawley. Dr. Francis said, “Women, regardless of the fact of whether they are seeking an abortion or not, deserve excellent health care and that’s not what they are seeing right now because of the FDA’s actions.” 3. Louisiana’s ban on destruction of IVF embryos strips patients’ options, A 1986 Louisiana law has led IVF clinics to ship patients’ embryos out of state for years, which some say makes an already taxing medical process more difficult, By Anumita Kaur, The Washington Post, March 3, 2024, 6:00 AM Every month, Ligou Gong and his team prepare to ship hundreds of embryos from their Louisiana fertility clinic to a Texas storage facility nearly 550 miles away. The routine requires meticulous preparation by Gong and two other embryologists with Audubon Fertility, who spend about a week logging details about each embryo before packing them into tanks that must be kept at minus-196 degrees for the eight-hour trek. The majority of Louisiana’s fertility clinics have been shipping patients’ embryos out of state for years, with some ending up in Florida and others as far away as Nevada. The time-consuming and costly process is a result of a 1986 state law that banned the destruction of embryos created during IVF. Louisiana has been the only state with such a restriction, though the Alabama Supreme Court put clinics there on alert when it ruled last month that frozen embryos are people and anyone who destroys them could be held liable. Alabama lawmakers responded last week with legislation to protect both patients and providers doing IVF.  The system provides a window into what could happen in other states that pursue laws regulating embryos’ personhood and legal rights, with Alabama’s ruling heightening concerns. While the Louisiana law was originally intended as a compromise between religious groups skeptical of IVF and the medical community, some now worry its interpretation can be stretched much further, akin to the Alabama ruling, which would pose more hurdles for those seeking reproductive care.  Louisiana IVF clinics work to minimize the burden patients face, and the shipping of embryos around the country is not uncommon, providers told The Post. Years of practice has helped them develop routines. 4. Voucher expansion leads to more students, waitlists and classes for some religious schools, By Holly Meyer, Associated Press, March 3, 2024, 8:11 AM The Miami Archdiocese’s superintendent of schools says Catholic education is increasingly in demand in South Florida, now that all K-12 students regardless of income are allowed to use taxpayer-funded programs to pay for private school tuition. Against the backdrop of favorable decisions by the conservative-majority U.S. Supreme Court, Florida was among nine states that expanded school voucher programs last year. So many families have signed up for the taxpayer-funded tuition reimbursements, some states are already exceeding their budgets. Some long-running religious schools are now planning for a fuller future after the wave of policy wins for the so-called school choice movement. Others hope voucher expansion comes to their state. “We are moving into growth mode,” said Jim Rigg, superintendent of the Miami Archdiocese’s 64 schools. Accelerated by the state’s private school scholarship program, enrollment has risen for the last four years, reaching its highest peak in over a decade, he said. “We are actively discussing new schools, either opened or reopened, over the next several years.” But using public funds to pay for religious school tuition — especially with generous income limits or none at all — remains controversial as proponents gain ground in Republican-majority states. The movement gained momentum amid fallout from pandemic-era school restrictions, debates on how transgender students should participate in school life, and wars over books and curriculum related to race and LGBTQ+ issues. More expansion may be ahead as legislatures in a majority of states consider dozens of bills and related court cases carry on. In Tennessee, for example, a Catholic school principal is hoping her students will soon be eligible for the state’s limited program. In California, families are suing because they can’t use available public funds to send their children with disabilities to Jewish schools. Thirty-two states have voucher programs, and some have been in place for decades. Supporters tout funding the student instead of the school, better academic options and more choices for parents who can benefit from taxes they pay. 5. Sorry, Demos II, but we’re unlikely to see a stay-at-home Pope again, By John L. Allen Jr., Crux, March 3, 2024, Opinion All this comes to mind in light of the top talking point in Catholic life over the last few days, which has been the so-called “Demos II,” meaning an essay on the next conclave purportedly written by an unnamed cardinal and published by a conservative Italian website. The text builds on a March 2022 text published under the byline “Demos,” which we now know was written by the late Australian Cardinal George Pell, identifying a series of perceived deficiencies in the Francis papacy. The new document outlines a series of seven challenges its author believes the next pope will face, whoever that may turn out to be. Here’s what it says on papal travel, in the English version provided by La Nuova Bussola Quotidiana. “Global travel served a pastor like Pope John Paul II so well because of his unique personal gifts and the nature of the times. But the times and circumstances have changed. The Church in Italy and throughout Europe – the historic home of the faith – is in crisis,” it reads. “The Vatican itself urgently needs a renewal of its morale, a cleansing of its institutions, procedures, and personnel, and a thorough reform of its finances to prepare for a more challenging future. These are not small things. They demand the presence, direct attention, and personal engagement of any new pope.” Here’s the thing: Whatever one makes of the overall diagnosis of Demos II, this particular item is almost certainly a dead letter, because the tides of history are sweeping the papacy in precisely the opposite direction. To begin with, the notion that a pope’s primary responsibility is to Italy, or to Europe, is an historical anachronism. Today, two-thirds of the 1.3 billion Catholics in the world live outside the West, a share that will rise to three-quarters by the middle of the century. Right now, more Catholics attend Sunday Mass in Nigeria alone than in all of Western Europe. The papacy today is an office with global responsibilities, and travel is a primary way to make that real. 6. Catholics express concern over eroding ‘brain death’ standards, By Jonah McKeown, Catholic News Agency, March 2, 2024, 6:00 AM A broad coalition of 151 Catholics including medical professionals, bioethicists, and scholars released a joint letter this past week expressing concern about new guidelines issued by a major neurological society regarding “brain death” — a hotly contested topic in the medical community and among people of faith. The signers of the letter contend that the current guidelines regarding brain death from the American Association of Neurology (AAN), released in 2023, could lead in practice to patients being incorrectly pronounced “brain dead” and subsequently having their organs removed while still alive. The Catholic Church has long supported — with Pope Francis carrying on the tradition — the idea of freely given organ donation as an act of charity for others.However, the signers of the February letter contend that because of what they see as ambiguity in U.S. law and medical practice regarding the declaration of brain death, Catholics ought to remove themselves from their state’s organ donation registry and create advance directives refusing organ donation until those ambiguities are resolved.  While legal standards for determining brain death differ from country to country, in the U.S. the law relevant to brain death is the 1981 Uniform Determination of Death Act, which states that an individual who has sustained “irreversible cessation of all functions of the entire brain, including the brain stem, is dead.” All 50 states have adopted the UDDA into their own laws, with a few variations in the language used. 7. Pope asks an aide to read a speech aloud for him, raising further concerns over his health, By Associated Press, March 1, 2024, 8:30 AM Pope Francis, who has been suffering from the flu, asked an aide to read out his prepared speech at a conference in the Vatican Friday, saying he has not yet fully recovered from his latest ailment that has raised concerns about his capacity to continue leading the Roman Catholic Church. The 87-year-old Pontiff, who was taken to a Roman hospital on Wednesday for diagnostic testing after having to cancel some public audiences, handed his speech to his aide, Mons. Filippo Ciampanelli. “I still have a cold and I get fatigued after reading for a while,” he said. Francis, who has been hospitalized three times since becoming pope in 2013, began using a wheelchair and cane to walk after suffering knee trouble last year. 8. Where IVF Treatment Faces Threats From Personhood Bills, At least 13 states are moving legislation that considers embryos people, By Kara Dapena and Maureen Linke, The Wall Street Journal, March 1, 2024, 8:00 AM The Alabama Supreme Court in February ruled that frozen embryos qualify as children, leading several fertility clinics to pause in vitro fertilization treatments. Reproductive-rights advocates have cautioned that the implications for IVF could be even broader, as personhood laws have gained traction in the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. In 2021, more than 97,000 babies were born using IVF in the U.S., accounting for about 2% of births, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The number and the share of babies are both all-time-highs as more women are delaying parenthood.Personhood laws seek to define life as beginning at conception and could make the practice of intentionally or accidentally destroying embryos during the IVF process illegal. At least 13 states have personhood bills that pertain specifically to embryos that have been introduced during their 2024 sessions, according to the Center for Reproductive Rights, a group that advocates for abortion rights. These bills consider embryos as people when they are created, including during the IVF process and relate to the storage, care and disposal of embryos. 9. Four Ways of Looking at Christian Nationalism, By Ross Douthat, The New York Times, March 1, 2024, Opinion  [A] kind of Christian politics, ecumenical, Protestant-inflected, not always especially orthodox but recognizably Christian all the same, is basically inseparable from American politics as we’ve known it: present in the founding era notwithstanding the influence of deism and skepticism, increasingly potent across the 19th century’s revivals, palpable throughout the Civil War (an intra-Protestant theological debate — with artillery), persistently influential through the arguments of the industrial era and, of course, given perhaps its most important expression in the religious rhetoric and strategy of Martin Luther King Jr. It’s perfectly reasonable to look at this tradition and say that sometimes it yields good results and sometimes bad ones — to support abolitionism but oppose Prohibition, say, even though both movements found support in similar religious quarters. Similarly, today, just because the pro-life movement is in continuity with the civil rights movement in its appeal to “created equal” premises on behalf of the unborn, or because today’s religious pro-natalists and marriage revivalists are in continuity with past religious reformers in their emphasis on the importance of home and hearth and family doesn’t mean that either group is necessarily correct. It’s not inconsistent to think that King was right about African American equality while thinking that anti-abortion activists are wrong about the humanity of embryos and fetuses, or to think that the nuclear family was a social and economic necessity in the past but now we’re better off liberated from its strictures. But the continuity does mean that today’s religious conservatives are mostly just normal American Christians doing normal American Christian politics, not foot soldiers of incipient theocracy. Likewise, what you get in today’s clashes over sex education and public school curricula is just a very normally American clash between different moral worldviews that are both informed by essentially spiritual ideas about the human person — if you can’t see the Protestant roots of wokeness, you aren’t paying attention — not a battle between medieval obscurantism on the one hand and The Science on the other.  Still, it’s not clear to me that secular liberals should really fear Christian nationalism more today than in 2000 or 1980. If more radical figures have gained some increased influence, that’s mostly because of chaos and disillusionment and decline within Christianity writ large. And in the larger picture, the foundation for Christian politics of any kind, radical or moderate, is just much weaker than when Obama was president, or for that matter Ronald Reagan.  This doesn’t mean religious conservatism wouldn’t influence a second Trump administration; of course it would. But it would be the influence of an important but weakening faction in a de-Christianizing country, not a movement poised to overthrow a secular liberalism whose real problems lie within. 10. Alabama IVF ruling highlights importance of state supreme court races in this year’s US elections, By Christine Fernando, Associated Press, March 1, 2024, 10:59 PM The recent ruling in Alabama that frozen embryos are legally considered children created a political firestorm after the decision halted treatment for many couples seeking to have families through fertility treatments. It also has turned the spotlight on the importance of institutions that are poised to play a central part in this year’s elections: state supreme courts. Decisions by states’ highest courts have become especially critical in the nearly two years since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a constitutional right to abortion. This year, campaigns for state supreme court seats are expected to be among the most expensive and bitterly contested races on the ballot. At stake are future decisions over abortion, other reproductive rights, gerrymandering, voting rights and other crucial issues.  This year’s elections bring 80 races for supreme court seats in 33 states, including a few such as Michigan, Ohio and West Virginia where partisan control is on the line. At least four states will have state supreme court races on Super Tuesday, including Alabama, Arkansas, North Carolina and Texas. Others, including Idaho, Illinois, Kentucky, Ohio, Oregon and West Virginia will have contests through the spring. In Alabama, five of the nine seats on the all-Republican Supreme Court are on the ballot. Chief Justice Tom Parker, 72, who cited verses from the Bible and Christian theologians in his concurring opinion in the IVF case, is unable to seek another term because the Alabama Constitution does not allow judges older than 70 to be elected. Since Roe fell in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision, about 40 lawsuits challenging abortion bans have been filed in 23 states, and many have worked up to their states’ highest courts as advocates search state constitutions for protections to abortion rights. 11. CVS and Walgreens plan to start dispensing abortion pill mifepristone soon, By Tom Murphy, Associated Press, March 1, 2024, 1:30 PM The drugstore chains CVS Health and Walgreens plan to start dispensing an abortion pill in a few states within weeks.  CVS Health Corp., the nation’s largest drugstore chain, runs nearly 9,400 locations. Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc. has about 8,700 U.S. stores. Their announcements Friday marked “an important milestone” in ensuring mifepristone access, President Joe Biden said in a statement. He noted that many women will soon be able to pick up their prescriptions at a local, certified pharmacy like they would any other medication. The moves by CVS and Walgreens come more than a year after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration finalized a rule change that broadened availability of abortion pills to many more pharmacies, including large chains and mail-order companies.  The U.S. Supreme Court is weighing a challenge from conservative groups who are seeking to reverse mifepristone’s approval or roll back policies that have made it easier to obtain. 12. Alabama Senate passes IVF protection bill amid Catholic outcry, By Peter Pinedo, Catholic News Agency, March 1, 2024, 6:30 AM The Alabama Senate unanimously passed a bill granting immunity to in vitro fertilization (IVF) providers in cases of death or injury to unborn babies during the IVF process. The Republican-majority Senate passed the bill in a 32-0 vote on Friday, just over a week after the Alabama Supreme Court ruled that unborn babies conceived through IVF are human children protected under the state’s Wrongful Death of a Minor Act. Introduced by 10 Republican state senators, the bill bypasses the state’s Wrongful Death of a Minor Act to ensure that “no action, suit, or criminal prosecution shall be brought or maintained against any individual or entity providing goods or services related to in vitro fertilization.” Similar to its counterpart in the House, the proposed bill will be retroactive and is scheduled to automatically expire on April 1, 2025. According to USA Today, lawmakers aim to get the bill to the governor’s desk to be signed into law by Wednesday. Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey, a Republican, has not yet signaled whether she intends to sign the bill.  Speaking with “EWTN News in Depth” on Friday, Carter Snead, director of Notre Dame’s de Nicola Center for Ethics and Culture said the bill’s passage indicates a “very strange, panicked reaction” from Alabama lawmakers who are now on the cusp of providing “blanket immunity to an entire industry in the state of Alabama without any kind of nuance, without any complexity, without any subtlety.” Snead said that the IVF protections enshrined by the bill are “unjust” to both unborn babies and IVF patients. “It’s strange to single out one industry, one aspect of medicine, for this kind of civil and criminal immunity,” the Alabama native added. “It’s unjust from the perspective that it singles out in vitro embryonic human beings and it puts them beyond the protections of the law. It’s also unjust to the families … because there are people who want to build their family using IVF, and now there’s nothing they could do if someone in the IVF context tortuously harms or destroys their unborn child, so long as the unborn child has not yet been transferred to her mother’s uterus.” In an earlier email referenced on X, Snead lamented that “For a state legislature that has courageously defended the intrinsic equal dignity of every human being regardless of age, size, location, condition of dependence, or social status, this is a shocking error in judgment.” 13. Catholic bishops object to Senate IVF bill, warn against deaths of preborn children, By Tyler Arnold, Catholic News Agency, March 1, 2024, 7:00 PM Catholic bishops are urging lawmakers to oppose a bill that would create a federally sanctioned right to access in vitro fertilization (IVF) — a fertility treatment that has resulted in the deaths of millions of human embryos in the United States. The bill, called the Access to Family Building Act, was introduced by Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Illinois. This legislation would establish a federally protected right to IVF access, preempting state-imposed restrictions. “We can understand the profound desire that motivates some of these couples to go to great lengths to have children, and we support morally licit means of doing so,” the heads of four United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ committees wrote in a letter to lawmakers. “The solution, however, can never be a medical process that involves the creation of countless preborn children and results in most of them being frozen or discarded and destroyed,” the bishops emphasized. The four signatories were Bishop Michael Burbidge, who chairs the USCCB’s Committee on Pro-Life Activities; Bishop Robert Barron, who chairs the Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life, and Youth; Archbishop Borys Gudziak, who chairs the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development; and Bishop Kevin Rhoades, the chairman of the Committee for Religious Liberty. 14. Trump accuses Biden of ‘persecuting’ Catholics, By Jonah McKeown, Catholic News Agency, March 1, 2024, 5:00 PM Former President Donald Trump this week reiterated his claim that President Joe Biden is persecuting Catholics, saying Biden has “weaponized” the Department of Justice (DOJ) against them.  In an interview with Sean Hannity on Feb. 29, the former president asserted that “Christians and Americans of faith are being persecuted like nothing this nation has ever seen before.” “I don’t know what’s going on with the Catholics,” Trump said, saying that Biden has “weaponized the FBI and the DOJ to go get his political opponents and many other people.” The most recent comments echo ones Trump has made on the campaign trail, including in December when he said Biden is “going violently and viciously after Catholics” by “sending undercover spies” and sending “SWAT teams to arrest pro-life activists.” 15. French bishops lament country’s enshrinement of abortion in constitution, By Diego Lopez Marina, Catholic News Agency, March 1, 2024, 4:00 PM By a vote of 267-50, the French Senate this week approved a constitutional amendment to include women’s recourse to abortion as a “guaranteed freedom.” In the wake of the vote on Monday, March 4, the amendment is expected to receive a final vote of approval at the Palace of Congresses in Versailles. If approved as expected, the country will become the first in the world to specifically make abortion a right enumerated in its constitution. “I committed to making women’s freedom to abort irreversible, enshrining it in the Constitution,” said French President Emmanuel Macron on X. “The Senate has taken a decisive step, which I welcome,” he added. In a Feb. 29 statement posted on X, the French Bishops’ Conference said it was “saddened” by the senators’ vote on the constitutional measure. The bishops pointed out that abortion “remains an affront to life in its beginnings” and that “it cannot be seen solely from the perspective of women’s rights.” The prelates also regretted that the parliamentary debate “did not mention the measures to help those women and men who would like to keep their child.” “The bishops’ conference will be vigilant with respect to the freedom of choice of parents who decide, even in difficult situations, to keep their child and the freedom of conscience of doctors and all health care personnel, whose courage and commitment it commends,” the prelates concluded. 16. Pope Francis meets FSSP head, confirms right to celebrate the Traditional Latin Mass, By Matthew Santucci, Catholic News Agency, March 1, 2024, 1:45 PM Pope Francis met with the superior general of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter (FSSP) on Thursday, confirming that restrictions on the celebration of the Traditional Latin Mass don’t apply to the order. The private meeting between the pope and Father Andrzej Komorowski, who was accompanied by two priests from his order, came at the invitation of Pope Francis and followed a request from the FSSP. According to a press release from the FSSP, the meeting was an opportunity to showcase “deep gratitude to the Holy Father” and to discuss the “liturgical specificity of the Fraternity of St. Peter.” The FSSP was established on July 18, 1988, as a society of apostolic life of pontifical right by the Holy See, a canonical status that was granted by Pope John Paul II. 17. Pope Francis: ‘Today the ugliest danger is gender ideology’, By Matthew Santucci, Catholic News Agency, March 1, 2024, 10:00 AM Pope Francis on Friday morning gave an address on the importance of building a culture that protects human and Christians vocations, things he suggested were at risk due to contemporary cultural challenges including gender ideology. “It is very important that there is this meeting, this meeting between men and women, because today the ugliest danger is gender ideology, which cancels out differences,” the pope said during an audience with members of the French-based academic organization Research and Anthropology of Vocations Institute (CRAV). Gender ideology, which seeks to blur differences between men and women through movements such as transgenderism, “makes everything the same,” Francis said. “Erasing differences is erasing humanity. Man and woman, however, are in a fruitful ‘tension,’” Francis told the assembly, which is gathered in Rome for a two-day international conference titled “Man, Woman, Image of God: For an Anthropology of Vocations.”

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.
Subscribe to the TCA podcast!
“Conversations with Consequences” is a new audio program from The Catholic Association. We’ll bring you thoughtful dialogue with the leading thinkers of our time on the most consequential issues of our day. Subscribe today or listen online and enjoy our entertaining and informative weekly episodes.