TCA Podcast, – “Conversations with Consequences”

Episode 56 – Steven Mosher Talks China & Congressman Brad Wenstrup On Opening Up Amid Covid-19

On this week’s Conversations with Consequences, Dr. Grazie Christie and Maureen Ferguson speak all things China with Steven Mosher of the Population Research Institute. We discuss violations of religious freedom within the country,the realities of the coronavirus pandemic, and the history of China’s one-child policy. Congressman Brad Wenstrup of Ohio also joins with a look at China and current congressional action. We also look at how best to get our churches, schools, and businesses open during this coronavirus pandemic. Marking Foster Care month, we also speak about the beauty of adoption–all on a fast-paced, fun, and insightful new episode!

1. Pope John Paul II’s Soviet Spy: Even to a hardened nonbeliever, the Polish pontiff could be ‘a source of light.’

By George Weigel, The Wall Street Journal, May 15, 2020, Pg. A15, Opinion

How did Pope John Paul II touch hearts and minds, even those of unbelievers, the way he did?

Pope John Paul II cannot be explained or understood unless he is taken for what he said he was: a radically converted Christian disciple. He believed that God had revealed himself in history, first to the Jewish people and ultimately in Jesus of Nazareth. He believed that the resurrection of the crucified Nazarene was the axial point of the human saga: an event in and beyond what we know as “history,” which disclosed that God’s passionate love for humanity was stronger than death itself.

Believing that, he lived without fear. And living without fear, he inspired fearlessness in others. He was “a source of light” because he spent his life allowing what he had experienced as divine light to shine through him.

Mr. Weigel is a distinguished senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center and a biographer of John Paul II.

2. Officials release edited coronavirus reopening guidance; warn against religious discrimination.

By Mike Stobbe and Jason Dearen, Associated Press, May 15, 2020

U.S. health officials on Thursday released some of their long-delayed guidance that schools, businesses and other organizations can use as states reopen from coronavirus shutdowns.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention posted six one-page “decision tool” documents that use traffic signs and other graphics to tell organizations what they should consider before reopening.

The tools are for schools, workplaces, camps, childcare centers, mass transit systems, and bars and restaurants. The CDC originally also authored a document for churches and other religious facilities, but that wasn’t posted Thursday. The agency declined to say why.

Early versions of the documents included detailed information for churches wanting to restart in-person services, with suggestions including maintaining distance between parishioners and limiting the size of gatherings. The faith-related guidance was taken out after the White House raised concerns about the recommended restrictions, according to government emails obtained by The Associated Press and a person inside the agency who didn’t have permission to talk with reporters and spoke on condition of anonymity.

3. Catholic Relief Services asks U.S. government to fund efforts to end world hunger.

By Christopher White, Crux, May 15, 2020

Catholic Relief Services (CRS) is asking the U.S. government to dedicate $12 billion dollars in future COVID-19 relief funding to foreign assistance in ending hunger.

In a new campaign launched on Wednesday, “Lead the Way on Hunger,” CRS is calling on American Catholics to stand in solidarity with those suffering from hunger overseas. The campaign will employ on a two-pronged approach focusing on advocacy and fundraising efforts, both at a governmental level and through personal initiatives.

During a press call on Wednesday, Sean Callahan, president and CEO of CRS, said that he hopes the campaign will “shine a light on what the Church is doing, particularly on hunger,” even in the face of tremendous obstacles stemming from the global pandemic.

4. Pope backs brotherly prayer, but his own backyard isn’t feeling terribly fraternal.

By John L. Allen Jr., Crux, May 15, 2020, Opinion

Yesterday was a special day of universal prayer for healing from the coronavirus proposed by the “Higher Committee for Human Fraternity,” a body formed in the wake of Pope Francis’s 2019 trip to the United Arab Emirates, and the “Document on Human Fraternity” he signed there along with the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Ahmad al-Tayyeb.

(The irony that the “Higher Committee for Human Fraternity” is financed by the UAE, which is presently engaged in conflicts in both Libya and Yemen in violation of a UN arms embargo, and that its government has a decidedly mixed human rights record, obviously isn’t lost on Francis, but his approach seems to be to welcome positive initiatives wherever they originate.)

At least here in Italy, however, where the pope’s injunctions usually have the widest resonance because it’s his own backyard, the initiative came at a moment when many Italians aren’t in an especially fraternal mood.

Instead, the country has been lacerated by a controversy surrounding Silvia Romano, now 24, who was serving as a humanitarian volunteer in Kenya when she was kidnapped 18 months ago by militants linked to Somalia’s radical al-Shabab terrorist group.

News of her liberation late last week initially prompted national celebration, but things quickly took a vicious turn when it emerged that Romano had converted to Islam during her captivity and taken the name “Aisha.” In conversations with government officials, she’s reportedly insisted that her conversion was uncoerced, calling it the result of reading the Quran and discussing the faith with one of her captors.

The revelations about her conversion triggered a particularly nasty bout of commentary, both on social media and in political circles.

Such reactions have deep roots in Italy, which have been turbo-charged over the last decade by the European migrant and refugee crisis and perceptions that the country is being “overrun,” mostly by Muslim immigrants seen by some as incompatible with Italy’s cultural identity. Even now, after more than two months in which he’s been largely invisible because he’s out of power, Matteo Salvini and his far-right Lega party poll ahead of every other political faction in the country, with a stable base of about 30 percent support.

In that context, Catholic leaders have struggled mightily to make the case for fraternity, not to mention patience.

The unplanned juxtaposition of the May 14 Day of Prayer and the Romano controversy here in Italy, therefore, perhaps illustrates two truths.

First, Pope Francis will miss no opportunity to embrace calls for human fraternity and interfaith solidarity, no matter where they come from. And second, the challenges to fraternity in a polarized age don’t seem to be receding anytime soon.

5. Government shouldn’t be in the business of telling religious schools who should teach religion: Supreme Court must apply Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC decision evenhandedly.

By Andrea Picciotti-Bayer, The Washington Times, May 14, 2020, 5:30 AM, Opinion

Lawyers for Our Lady of Guadalupe School from the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty asked the U.S. Supreme Court to evenhandedly apply the court’s unanimous 2012 Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC decision to two cases involving fifth-grade religion teachers at Catholic schools. The 2012 case also involved a religion teacher, but at a Lutheran school. Hosanna-Tabor held that the teacher couldn’t sue her Lutheran school for employment discrimination, because the government shouldn’t be in the business of telling religious schools who should teach religion.

That common-sense principle is called the “ministerial exception.” It’s a narrow rule that provides religious groups with broad protection over how they chose a relatively small set of employees — those who “lead,” “teach” and “guide them on their way.” On Monday, Our Lady’s lawyers simply asked the justices to apply this narrow rule to religion teachers at Catholic schools, too.

In Hosanna-Tabor, the Supreme Court recognized that a Lutheran elementary school teacher “performed an important role in transmitting the Lutheran faith to the next generation” and was, therefore, included in the ministerial exception. The Catholic teachers in Monday’s case do the same. On this basis alone, the Supreme Court should have no trouble deciding Our Lady of Guadalupe School.

6. Should Courts Get to Choose Teachers at Faith-Based Schools? No. Here’s Why.

By Ashley McGuire, The Daily Signal, May 14, 2020, Opinion

While the Supreme Court was hearing oral arguments May 11 about whether Catholic schools should have the right to decide whom they employ as teachers, my daughter was on a Zoom call with her Catholic schoolteacher.

Like the schools whose cases were before the court, Our Lady of Guadalupe School and St. James School, my daughter’s Catholic elementary school has one class per grade, and as a result, one teacher per grade.

My daughter’s second-grade teacher doesn’t just teach her about sentence structure and multiplication tables. She also did the formal instruction to prepare my daughter to give her first confession and to receive her first Communion.

Further, every subject taught at her school is infused with religion. That’s why parents like me choose religious education. Just as we believe our faith should permeate all aspects of our lives, we believe that a good education should be infused with spirituality, especially when children are in the most impressionable stages of their lives.

For me and my husband, that meant making the difficult choice to take our daughter out of an excellent public school, where she was thriving, and put her in a school that would form her faith as well.

Yet the choices made by parents like us all across this country who sacrificed accordingly are threatened by those lawsuits at the Supreme Court. They argue that courts can entangle themselves in religious schools’ selection of teachers who teach the faith.

In short, they argue that teachers of religion aren’t religious enough under the First Amendment, and thus the government should have the right to intervene in employment decisions regarding teachers, such as my daughter’s—teachers who daily pass on the faith to our children.

Anyone who has ever opted for a parochial school education knows that religion teachers at religious schools are imparting the faith from bell to bell. They lead children in prayers, they teach doctrine, they model the faith in their own example, and they connect secular subjects to religious themes.

Allowing their claims to proceed is a surefire way to give the government an opening into the religious education of children. And let’s be honest, there are plenty of government bureaucrats obsessed with things such as  gender ideology who would be delighted at the chance to “help” Catholic and other religious schools decide whom they hire and what they teach. Or whether or not something is actually a sin.

That’s a classic slope that one would call slippery.

Catholic schools are no exception to the professional and educational standards of excellence parents want for our children. Using claims of discrimination as a wedge in the door for government bureaucrats would be the end of religious education and the religious rights of parents to educate their children according to the dictates of their faith.

But the trial lawyers looking to undercut the religious rights of Catholic schools needn’t ask the Supreme Court whether their teachers minister the faith. They should just ask the parents who choose Catholic school for their children because that is exactly what those teachers were hired to do.

7. Senators want PPP loans for larger non-profits, except abortion providers.

By Catholic News Agency, May 14, 2020, 11:00 AM

A group of senators want to allow larger non-profits access to emergency loans during the coronavirus pandemic—with an exception to exclude abortion providers.

New legislation introduced on Wednesday by Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.), joined by Sens. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), James Lankford (R-Okla.) and Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), would modify regulations so that non-profits with more than 500 employees could also be eligible for emergency Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans during the pandemic.

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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