1. Senate Dems thwart GOP bid to block Planned Parenthood ‘slush fund’ in stimulus, Attempt to apply Hyde Amendment to American Rescue Plan Act fails, By Valerie Richardson, The Washington Times, March 8, 2021, Pg. A2
Among the beneficiaries of the $1.9 trillion stimulus bill passed Saturday was Planned Parenthood, despite the best efforts of Senate Republicans and pro-life groups.
Senate Democrats beat back efforts to apply the Hyde Amendment to the legislation, meaning that the federal funding, notably $50 million allotted for grants and contracts under the Public Health Service Act, may be used to cover abortions in a break with last year’s novel coronavirus spending.
2. Vatican foreign minister says Pope wants to save Middle East Christianity, By Inés San Martín, Crux, March 8, 2021
British Archbishop Paul Gallagher, in effect the Vatican’s foreign minister, told Crux that trying to stop the hemorrhaging of Christians from the Middle East was one of the reasons behind the pope’s steadfast determination to carry out his March 5-8 trip to Iraq  despite the challenges.
“That’s something that the pope is trying to do, but it’s very difficult,” Gallagher said when asked if he though part of Francis’ sense of urgency to go to Iraq despite the COVID-19 pandemic and safety concerns was the risk of Christianity disappearing from the Middle East.
“The hemorrhaging of Christians from the Middle East – Iraq, Lebanon, also Syria – is a significant challenge to the future of Christianity, and it is a geopolitical problem, because Christians have always been there, they have always had a role amidst the other communities, the larger, more powerful communities,” the archbishop said during the four-plus hours flight from Baghdad to Rome that took the pope home.
3. Desecration nation: When churches crumble, so does respect for life, By The Washington Times, March 8, 2021, Pg. B2, Editorial
There are several ways to desecrate a church. One is to destroy it from the outside — burn it and vandalize its holy contents as a sign of disrespect. Another is to attack it from the inside — undermine its teachings and turn its congregants against their own beliefs. Christianity, for one, is under attack from without and within. As religious values fade from the social landscape, with them disappears respect for human life.
The Democratic Party has pursued a decades-long crusade for abortion, a form of infanticide. Unsurprisingly, a decline in the appeal of Christianity, which holds human life as precious and eternal, has accompanied it. Pew Research Center surveys have charted a decline in the proportion of U.S. respondents identifying as Christian from 77% in 2009 to 63% in 2021.

The consequences of declining Christian faith are already well underway in Europe. An 800-year-old church in Sweden was firebombed in January, and several days later, attackers returned to finish the job. A study was published in February, writes Raymond Ibrahim in The American Thinker, reporting that Sweden, normally thought of as a haven of tolerance, suffered 829 “hate crimes” against churches between 2012 and 2018.
France underwent 1,063 similar attacks on churches or religious symbols in 2018 alone, a 17% increase in one year. And Germany reported some 200 churches in Bavaria’s alpine region were vandalized in 2017 and their crosses broken.
The challenge from a competing faith, Islam, is blamed for much of the church destruction in Europe. Thus far in the U.S., denial of a divine component to human existence is eroding church irrelevance. Abraham Lincoln once said, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” Similarly, when churchgoers are separated from their faith, human life is desecrated.
4. Where IS ruled, pope calls on Christians to forgive, rebuild, By Nicole Winfield and Samya Kullab, Associated Press, March 7, 2021, 12:46 AM
Pope Francis urged Iraq’s Christians on Sunday to forgive the injustices against them by Muslim extremists and to rebuild as he visited the wrecked shells of churches and met ecstatic crowds in the community’s historic heartland, which was nearly erased by the Islamic State group’s horrific reign.
“Fraternity is more durable than fratricide, hope is more powerful than hatred, peace more powerful than war,” the pontiff said during prayers for the dead in the city of Mosul, with the call for tolerance that has been the central message of his four-day visit to Iraq.
5. Francis in Iraq arguably the most emblematic papal trip of all time, By John L. Allen Jr., Crux, March 7, 2021, Opinion
No matter how much longer he remains in office, and despite all the drama we’ve already seen and whatever is yet to come, there will be no better synthesis of who Francis is and what he’s about as pope.
To begin with, this trip crystallizes Francis’s will and determination – or, to use the less elegiac term, his stubborn streak.
If you’d polled 100 Vatican officials and papal diplomats six months ago, probably 99 would have counseled against a papal trip to Iraq. It would be irresponsible in the midst of a global pandemic, they would have said, and moreover, the security situation is too precarious.

No doubt Francis heard all those arguments, repeatedly and with increasing emphasis as the date of departure drew nearer. He went anyway, which is characteristic of his insistence from the beginning on following his own lead.
More deeply, it’s no accident that Francis is making this trip while the Covid-19 pandemic is still raging. In many ways, it’s precisely because of Covid that Francis felt this outing is so essential.

From the pontiff’s point of view, the Iraq trip not only didn’t need to wait for the definitive end of the pandemic, it had to happen now, because it’s Fratelli Tutti in miniature and wove of gestures rather than words.

Francis’s March 5-8 journey to Iraq is, in effect, also his shot at the title – not of “greatest” papal trip of all time, perhaps, but the most emblematic, the one that best sums up the spirit of a papacy and its message for the world in its historical moment.
Whether this trip actually will change the world remains to be seen, but we’ll likely never see a more vintage Francis effort to make the case.
6. Pope, top Iraq Shiite cleric deliver message of coexistence, By Nicole Winfield and Qassim Abdul-Zahra, Associated Press, March 6, 2021, 1:03 AM
Pope Francis walked through a narrow alley in Iraq’s holy city of Najaf for a historic meeting with the country’s top Shiite cleric Saturday, and together they delivered a powerful message of peaceful coexistence in a country still reeling from back-to-back conflicts over the past decade.
In a gesture both simple and profound, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani welcomed Francis into his spartan home. The 90-year-old cleric, one of the most eminent among Shiites worldwide, afterward said Christians should live in peace in Iraq and enjoy the same rights as other Iraqis. The Vatican said Francis thanked al-Sistani for having “raised his voice in defense of the weakest and most persecuted” during some of the most violent times in Iraq’s recent history,
7. After days of halting statements about vaccine morality, multiple Catholic leaders call the shots urgent, important, By Michelle Boorstein, The Washington Post, March 5, 2021, 5:44 PM
After days of halting, nuanced statements by U.S. Catholic bishops about the morality of taking the coronavirus vaccines, some Catholic leaders began pushing back late this week, saying the shots are moral and needed urgently to save lives.

Some Catholic leaders and medical professionals worried that the stream of criticism over the Johnson & Johnson shot and tepid wording about the vaccines in general could discourage devout Catholics at a time when, for many, procuring any coronavirus vaccine is elusive. And some felt the need to say explicitly that getting a vaccine is not at all problematic morally and there is an ethical imperative to do so.
“It is clear that there is an urgent race against time, in the growing presence of these variants, to get as many people vaccinated as possible and to do that as soon as possible,” the Boston archdiocese wrote Thursday.

A group of prominent conservative Catholic scholars Friday went into greater detail, saying none of the vaccines developed in the U.S. so far — by AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer and Moderna ― should be seen as “more morally tainted” than one another. The statement by the eight scholars noted that the abortion was not done in order to provide research material, the scientists working to develop the coronavirus vaccines a century later were not involved in the abortion, and the cell line is so common for testing that “the great majority of processed/packaged food products available for sale in the United States are likely to contain ingredients produced or tested” with it.
The signers included Ryan T. Anderson, president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center; Princeton University law professor Robert P. George; and O. Carter Snead, director of the University of Notre Dame’s de Nicola Center for Ethics and Culture.
8. Pope urges Iraq to embrace its Christians on historic visit, By Nicole Winfield and Samya Kullab, Associated Press, March 5, 2021
Pope Francis opened the first-ever papal visit to Iraq on Friday with a plea for the country to protect its centuries-old diversity, urging Muslims to embrace their Christian neighbors as a precious resource and asking the embattled Christian community — “though small like a mustard seed” — to persevere.
9. Archbishop Gomez to Congress, Biden: Don’t force pro-life Americans to oppose COVID relief, By Catholic News Agency, March 5, 2021, 9:00 AM
As the Senate considers a $1.9 trillion COVID relief package on Friday, the head of the U.S. bishops’ conference warned that the bill will fund abortions.
“We urge President Biden and the leadership on Capitol Hill not to force upon Americans the wrenching moral decision whether to preserve the lives and health of the born or unborn, all of whom are our vulnerable neighbors in need,” said Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles, president of the U.S. bishops’ conference (USCCB), in a statement on Friday.
He implored Congress not to force pro-life Americans to oppose the COVID relief bill.
“We ask that our leaders please not pit people against one another in such a way,” he said, asking for the pro-life protections to be added in to the legislation.

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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