1. U.S. bishops urge Congress to address maternal health care crisis, By John Lavenburg, Crux, May 14, 2024
Citing the country’s high maternal mortality rate, United States Conference of Catholics Bishops committee chairmen recently wrote to Congress to encourage lawmakers to address the nation’s maternal health crisis.
In a May 8 letter, the chairmen called on Congress to place a high priority on policies that advance the health, safety, and flourishing of women, children and families. More specifically, the chairmen called for Congress to enact policies that respect life and dignity, honor conscience rights, are “truly affordable,” and provide comprehensive and high-quality health care.
The chairmen also note that the policies are important because health care is a human right, and therefore women must “receive maternal health care that encompasses a holistic view of their inherent dignity and value as expressed in the unique and God-given role of motherhood.”
“While no single policy can fully address the complex maternal health care crisis, the common good demands diligent work to create policies that will improve and protect the health of mothers and their children,” the chairmen state in the letter.

In the letter, the USCCB chairmen also highlighted that the data shows that Black and Indigenous women are at particularly high risk, and expressed a general concern over the racial disparities that accompany the rise in maternal mortality and morbidity rates.
They also noted that as pastors they see mothers and families struggling with the impacts of poverty and economic stressors, racism, discrimination, family breakdown, and other forms of injustice as they seek to build and grow their families. They also express concern over the rise in the maternal mortality and morbidity rates and the accompanying racial disparities.

In the realm of affordability, the chairmen renewed a previous call the conference had made for Congress to require states to provide Medicaid coverage for 12 months postpartum. They also want Congress to give particular attention to poor women and families, especially those who cannot afford insurance but also do not qualify for Medicaid.
2. Germany now a ‘mission country,’ Bishop Bätzing says amid declining Catholic numbers, By AC Wimmer, Catholic News Agency, May 14, 2024, 9:32 AM
The German Bishops’ Conference president has called Germany — a nation whose very history is entangled with the Catholic Church — a “mission country.”
In an interview with the Society of the Divine Word’s German-language magazine, Bishop Georg Bätzing of Limburg said: “We live in a missionary country when we realize that less than half of Germany’s citizens still belong to the Christian denominations.”
According to CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German-language news partner, Bätzing said evangelization had been a central theme “since [Pope] John Paul II and also for [Pope] Francis.”
The German prelate continued: “But the other half are not simply faithless or don’t ask any questions, and in this respect, I believe we need to do much more.”

At the time, Bätzing stated on his diocese’s website that the “alarming” figures underscored the need for continued “cultural change” and the implementation of the German Synodal Way resolutions.
However, the German Synodal Way, which has advocated for significant changes to traditional Church teachings since 2019, has not stemmed the dramatic decline in Catholic numbers. 
A 2021 report by CNA Deutsch noted that 1 in 3 Catholics in Germany were considering leaving the Church. The reasons for leaving varied, with older people citing the Church’s handling of the abuse crisis and younger people pointing to the obligation of paying church tax, according to one earlier study.

… Bätzing said the shortest definition of religion was “interruption” and that some forms of continuity people seek from religion are “frankly suspect.”
3. Chicago priest apologizes for same-sex blessing, saying it violated Church norms, By Daniel Payne, Catholic News Agency, May 14, 2024, 7:48 AM
A priest in Chicago has apologized for the controversial way in which he blessed a same-sex couple in April, calling it a “very poor decision” that violated Catholic Church’s new guidelines.
In a statement dated May 8, Father Joseph Williams, the pastor of St. Vincent de Paul Parish near downtown Chicago, offered an apology in which the priest said he “regrets the language of the blessing and the use of vestments and the church itself, which he now recognizes were a violation of the norms approved by the Church.”
The priest blessed a same-sex couple in the city parish in April. In a video of the event posted to social media, Williams — wearing priestly vestments — can be seen asking the couple if they “freely recommit yourselves to love each other as holy spouses and to live in peace and harmony together forever.” The two women respond, “I do.”
Williams in the video asks God to “increase and consecrate the love” the two women have for each other, stating that the “rings that they have exchanged are the sign of their fidelity and commitment.” 
The priest had initially suggested that the Vatican’s December 2023 document Fiducia Supplicans allows the type of blessing he administered in April. That document said that Catholic priests can bless same-sex couples as an expression of pastoral closeness without condoning their sexual relations and without making the blessing seem like a wedding. 

4. Louisiana moves to make abortion pills ‘controlled dangerous substances’, Someone possessing the pills without a valid prescription or outside of professional practice could be prosecuted and sentenced to prison., By Emily Wax-Thibodeaux, The Washington Post, May 13, 2024, 6:00 AM
Louisiana could become the first state in the country to categorize mifepristone and misoprostol — the drugs used to induce an abortion — as controlled dangerous substances, threatening incarceration and fines if an individual possesses the pills without a valid prescription or outside of professional practice.
Legislators in Baton Rouge added the provision as a last-minute amendment to a Senate bill that would criminalize an abortion if someone gives a pregnant woman the pills without her consent, a scenario of “coerced criminal abortion” that nearly occurred with one senator’s sister.
A pregnant woman obtaining the two drugs “for her own consumption” would not be at risk of prosecution. But, with the exception of a health-care practitioner, a person helping her get the pills would be.
Louisiana already bans both medication and surgical abortions except to save a patient’s life or because a pregnancy is “medically futile.” Lawmakers just rejected adding exceptions for teenagers under 17 who become pregnant through rape or incest.

5. Justice Alito Warns of Threats to Freedom of Speech and Religion, In a commencement ceremony at a Catholic university, the justice said that fundamental principles were in peril at universities and American society., By Adam Liptak, The New York Times, May 12, 2024, Pg. A21
Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. warned on Saturday that freedom of speech was under threat at universities and that freedom of religion was in peril in society at large.
“Troubled waters are slamming against some of our most fundamental principles,” he said.
He made his remarks at a commencement ceremony at the Franciscan University of Steubenville in Ohio, a Catholic institution.

“Freedom of religion is also imperiled,” he said. “When you venture out into the world, you may well find yourself in a job or a community or a social setting when you will be pressured to endorse ideas you don’t believe or to abandon core beliefs. It will be up to you to stand firm.”
In other settings, Justice Alito has given a specific example, complaining that people opposed to same-sex marriage on religious grounds are sometimes treated as bigots.

6. Trump’s shadow hangs over Vatican approach to European elections, By John L. Allen Jr., Crux, May 12, 2024
Although non-Europeans may not be paying attention – and, for that matter, a fairly wide swath of the European population itself isn’t exactly riveted either – but elections for the European Parliament loom June 6-9, when voters will select 720 representatives who will chart a course for the EU for the next five years.
The balloting may not be a pop culture phenomenon – last time, in 2019, about 200 million Europeans cast ballots, around half of all those eligible, and roughly the same number who tuned in a month later to watch Manchester City beat Inter Milan 1-0 in the Champions League final.
However, it’s a good bet that attention levels in at least one European setting will be unusually high: Within Vatican City, where Pope Francis and his team have a clear incentive to want to see a strengthened EU emerge from the vote.
That reason? Because if Donald Trump returns to power in the U.S., as polls presently suggest he very well might, then Francis (and, presumably, whomever he might hope succeeds him) would desperately want a more assertive and consequential EU to become their primary partner on the global stage.
The main threat to that ambition would seem to be the prospect of far-right, Eurosceptic parties posting significant gains in 2024, with polls currently showing such forces in first or second place in several countries, including France, Germany and Austria.
In that context, the Vatican’s aim would seem to be to strengthen centrist forces that want to hold the EU together, instead of giving it a death by a thousand cuts.
This is not simply idle speculation.
It was very much the spirit of a letter released this past Thursday from Cardinal Matteo Zuppi of Bologna, president of the Italian bishops’ conference, and Bishop Mariano Crociata of Latina-Terracina-Sezze-Priverno, who is the elected president of the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union (COMECE), bringing together all the conferences of the 27 EU member states.

7. Kansas’ governor vetoes a bill for extending child support to fetuses, By John Hanna, Associated Press, May 10, 2024, 2:01 PM
Kansas’ Democratic governor on Friday vetoed a bill aimed at ensuring that child support payments cover fetuses, a measure critics saw as a move by anti-abortion groups toward giving them the same rights as the mothers-to-be carrying them.
The measure scuttled by Gov. Laura Kelly was similar to a Georgia law and measures introduced in at least five other states, according to an Associated Press analysis using the bill-tracking software Plural. Supporters in the Republican-controlled Kansas Legislature argued that they were trying to make sure that the costs associated with a pregnancy and a birth are covered.
But Kelly, a strong supporter of abortion rights, called the measure “a blatant attempt” by “extreme” lawmakers to control women and families’ private medical decisions. She also said it conflicts with the will of voters statewide, who affirmed abortion rights in August 2022 — three years after the Kansas Supreme Court declared that the state constitution protects access to abortion as part of a “fundamental” right to bodily autonomy.

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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