1. Unity in What?, In the words of Pope John Paul II: ‘The moral life and the life of faith are so deeply united that it is impossible to divide them.’, By George Weigel, National Catholic Register, May 15, 2024, Opinion
Among the many urgent questions raised by the Synods on the Family in 2014 and 2015 and the current Synod on Synodality — questions that will inevitably bear on the next papal conclave — is that of unity: in what, precisely, does the unity of the Church consist? What is the content of the “one” in the Creed’s affirmation of “one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church?”
The Synods on the Family grappled with this in their debates on worthiness to receive Holy Communion: Could those in canonically irregular marriages, who were not living in unity with the settled teaching and pastoral practice of the Church, participate fully in the sacrament of unity, the Eucharist? Or ought they refrain from receiving Holy Communion while still joining the community in offering true worship to the Father?
The ambiguities in Amoris Laetitia, the post-synodal apostolic exhortation that followed those Synods, did not resolve that question. Rather, it deepened the concern that fault lines were opening in the Church, with some local Church interpreting Amoris Laetitia according to the line they had taken at the Synods (i.e., those in irregular marriages could receive Holy Communion) and other local churches interpreting the apostolic exhortation differently (those in irregular marriages should refrain from receiving Holy Communion).
Those fault lines were deep indeed. For how could it be that a source of sanctifying grace in Germany was a grave sin 10 miles away, on the Polish side of the German-Polish border?

The Pope also cited with regret “the deep division” between Christian communities “which still exists over moral and ethical matters.” And then, in one sentence, he shut down the ecumenical cafeteria: “The moral life and the life of faith are so deeply united that it is impossible to divide them.” Message: There can be no bracketing of moral issues in a genuine dialogue about recomposing Christian unity.
If that is true for ecumenism, it is certainly true for the unity of the Catholic Church. The content of the “one” in the Nicene affirmation of “one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church” is a unity in faith: a unity in the truths we know from revelation and reason. Local-option Catholicism is not Catholicism. National Catholicism is not Catholicism. The truths of faith — which include the moral truths that facilitate human flourishing and beatitude — are universal.
Which is to say, catholic and Catholic.
2. Washington bishops vs. state AG: Who has a point?, By Ed. Condon, The Pillar, May 15, 2024, 12:07 PM
The Washington state attorney general is seeking a court order to enforce a sweeping subpoena of Church records from the state’s three dioceses, claiming the bishops are obstructing an investigation into historical instances of clergy sex abuse.

All three dioceses have pushed back on the scope of the AG’s demand for records dating back more than 80 years, including files on any allegation of abuse — even spurious or disproven claims — against clergy, employees or volunteers, and all communications with the Vatican about abuse claims and cases.
The AG’s office is also demanding the dioceses turn over their financial records and details of any compensation paid to survivors.
On the face of it, the dioceses would appear to have grounds for legal objection. 
Ferguson has said “Washingtonians deserve a public accounting of how the Catholic Church handles allegations of child sex abuse, and whether charitable dollars were used to cover it up,” while citing his office’s authority to “investigate transactions and relationships of trustees and other persons” under the Charitable Trust Act as the legal rationale for the subpoenas.
However, the statute contains an exemption from oversight for religious organizations. While Ferguson has insisted that “the exclusion does not apply in the context of child sexual abuse,” it is not clear if that interpretation of the law is his to make.
Similarly, in demanding diocesan communications with the Vatican, the AG’s Office would appear to be crossing into the internal governance of a Church, something protected by the First Amendment and, in the case of canonical proceedings concerning clergy, technically a sovereign legal process of the Holy See.
The dioceses also contend that turning over records and files of survivors’ accounts of their own abuse would be a violation of their confidentiality and could re-victimize them.
While Feguson has defended the scope of his investigation by citing other similar efforts by AGs in other states, those examples actually offer something of a mixed bag. While it is true that in places like New York sweeping results were achieved concerning dioceses like Buffalo, in Wisconsin the AG’s Office had to back down after dioceses there fought back against what they argued was a deliberate “targeting” of the Catholic Church by unconstitutional means.
Though, in those cases, dioceses themselves should shoulder some of the blame — both in Washington and around the country — for creating an expectation that all accused clergy be named publicly, even if there is no finding of guilt.
For years, following the 2018 Pennsylvania grand jury report issued by the state AG there, American dioceses have made public lists of “credibly accused” clergy. In some cases, these lists have been an effort to vindicate the experiences of survivors, even if there is no avenue for canonical or civil prosecution, or to encourage other possible victims of an abusive cleric to come forward. But in other cases, the practice has meant listing priests before any canonical process has begun, any defense from the accused heard or any finding of guilt determined.
But a small number of U.S. dioceses have refused to issue such lists, echoing warnings from the Vatican, which has – for years – pushed back on the practice, and publicly told dioceses to refrain from using terms “credible” and “substantiated” to described allegations which have not yet been subject to a canonical or civil legal process, and when clerics have not had the opportunity to defend themselves.
Critics of the practice of publishing lists of names of accused clerics have also warned that when an accusation isn’t proven, the fact that a priest’s name has been on a list at all can make it difficult – sometimes impossible – for the bishop to return him to pastoral ministry, creating a class of “unassignable” priests who haven’t been found guilty of anything, but cannot move on with their lives.
In New Orleans, a bankruptcy judge ordered the archdiocese to cease paying stipends to clerics on the public “credibly accused” list in 2020, and in 2022 extended the order to those whose accusations weren’t deemed “credible” — even if those priests hadn’t undergone any kind of canonical process at all.
It is also worth bearing in mind that, in seeking records dating back to the 1940s, the Washington AG’s office is looking to subpoena records of allegations dating back more than half a century, possibly without any living parties to them and which would be impossible to gather new information on.
And, it is worth remembering, the confidentiality of diocesan records doesn’t just concern historically accused clerics — files also often include witness statements from those who came forward during an investigation, and the identity and circumstances of victims, all of whom could have been previously assured of confidentiality and have their own rights to their good reputations.

There are real arguments in justice for caution in dealing with unproven and even historically unprovable allegations against clergy. But at the same time, the reality is bishops in Washington and elsewhere have in large part set a precedent in this regard, which state attorneys general are now simply following.

3. The Vatican’s Gamble With Beijing Is Costing China’s Catholics, In trying to hold the Church together, Pope Francis has compromised on religious freedom., By Francis X. Rocca, The Atlantic, May 14, 2024, Opinion
No pope has ever set foot in china, but 10 years ago, Francis came the closest. On a flight to South Korea in August 2014, he became the first Vicar of Christ to enter Chinese airspace. Apparently that wasn’t enough. “Do I want to go to China?” Francis mused a few days later to those of us journalists accompanying him on his flight back to Rome. “Of course: Tomorrow!”
Francis has been more conciliatory to the People’s Republic than any of his predecessors. His approach has brought some stability to the Church in China, but it has also meant accepting restrictions on the religious freedom of Chinese Catholics and undermining the Vatican’s credibility as a champion of the oppressed. Francis sees himself as holding the Chinese Church together; he might be helping to stifle it in the process.
That trade-off becomes apparent when comparing the two major groups that make up China’s estimated 10 million Catholics. One is the state-controlled Church, overseen by the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, which has a long history of appointing bishops without the Vatican’s approval—a nightmare for popes because it presents the danger of a schism. In 2018, Francis mitigated that threat by negotiating an agreement in which the Chinese government and the Vatican cooperate on the appointment of bishops. The details of the pact, which is up for renewal in the fall, remain secret, but the pope has said it gives him final say. In return, the Vatican promised not to authorize any bishop that Beijing doesn’t support.
The agreement came at the expense of China’s second group of Catholics: the so-called underground Church, which previously ordained its own bishops with Rome’s approval and is now in effect being told by the Vatican to join the state-controlled Church. The underground community rejects President Xi Jinping’s campaign of “Sinicization,” a program that seeks to reinforce Chinese national identity, in part by demanding that all religious teaching and practice accord with the ideology of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Occasionally that means prohibiting religious worship entirely: Shortly before the Vatican and Beijing signed the deal, new legislation went into effect that led to stricter enforcement of such rules as a ban on minors attending Mass. And sometimes Sinicization means muddling Catholic doctrine with CCP dogma. As one priest in the official Church claimed in 2019, “The Ten Commandments and the core socialist values are the same.”
Whether the Chinese Church can remain authentically Catholic in the face of Sinicization is an open question. That Francis came to terms with the government just as the program intensified felt to some underground Catholics like a betrayal, a sign that he might tolerate the continued compromising of their faith. He accommodates Beijing in order to stabilize the Church in China, but Chinese authorities aren’t interested in the faith that Francis professes. They’ve made clear that they want a Church that submits to the state; such a Church might be stable, but would it be Catholic?

For now, the agreement on bishops is temporary, requiring renewal every two years. This raises the question of what Francis’s successor might do. The next pope likely won’t have his hands tied; he will be free to join the West in taking a more confrontational—or, as Pompeo would have it, principled—tack with China.
Alternatively, he can wait and see if Francis’s approach bears fruit. There’s an old saying that applies to the Church and China in equal measure: They think in centuries. The wait could be a while.
4. Hilary Cass Says U.S. Doctors Are ‘Out of Date’ on Youth Gender Medicine, Dr. Hilary Cass published a landmark report that led to restrictions on youth gender care in Britain. U.S. health groups said it did not change their support of the care., By Azeen Ghorayshi, The New York Times, May 14, 2024, 9:32 AM, Interview

Over the next four years, Dr. Cass commissioned systematic reviews of scientific studies on youth gender treatments and international guidelines of care. She also met with young patients and their families, transgender adults, people who had detransitioned, advocacy groups and clinicians.
Her final report, published last month, concluded that the evidence supporting the use of puberty-blocking drugs and other hormonal medications in adolescents was “remarkably weak.” On her recommendation, the N.H.S. will no longer prescribe puberty blockers outside of clinical trials. Dr. Cass also recommended that testosterone and estrogen, which allow young people to develop the physical characteristics of the opposite sex, be prescribed with “extreme caution.”
Dr. Cass’s findings are in line with several European countries that have limited the treatments after scientific reviews. But in America, where nearly two dozen states have banned the care outright, medical groups have endorsed the treatments as evidence-based and necessary.

[Hilary Cass:] When I was president of the Royal College of Pediatrics and Child Health, we did some great work with the [American Academy of Pediatrics]. They are an organization that I have enormous respect for. But I respectfully disagree with them on holding on to a position that is now demonstrated to be out of date by multiple systematic reviews.
It wouldn’t be too much of a problem if people were saying “This is clinical consensus and we’re not sure.” But what some organizations are doing is doubling down on saying the evidence is good. And I think that’s where you’re misleading the public. You need to be honest about the strength of the evidence and say what you’re going to do to improve it.

5. Anti-abortion activist who led a clinic blockade is sentenced to nearly 5 years in prison, An anti-abortion activist who led others on an invasion and blockade of a reproductive health clinic in the nation’s capital has been sentenced to nearly five years in prison, By Michael Kunzelman, Associated Press, May 14, 2024, 5:50 PM
An anti-abortion activist who led others on an invasion and blockade of a reproductive health clinic in the nation’s capital was sentenced on Tuesday to nearly five years in prison.
Lauren Handy, 30, was among several people convicted of federal civil rights offenses for blockading access to the Washington Surgi-Clinic on Oct. 22, 2020. Police found five fetuses at Handy’s home in Washington after she was indicted.

Prosecutors recommended a prison sentence of roughly six years for Handy. They described her as an anti-abortion extremist who was a “criminal mastermind” behind the Washington invasion and similar attacks on other clinics.

6. Survey finds 8,000 women a month got abortion pills despite their states’ bans or restrictions, A new survey says medical providers were prescribing abortion pills to about 8,000 women a month in states with abortion bans or bans on telehealth abortions by the end of 2023, By Laura Ungar and Geoff Mulvihill, Associated Press, May 14, 2024, 2:41 PM
Thousands of women in states with abortion bans and restrictions are receiving abortion pills in the mail from states that have laws protecting prescribers, a new report shows.
Tuesday’s release of the #WeCount survey shows about 8,000 women a month in states that severely restrict abortion or place limits on having one through telehealth were getting the pills by mail by the end of 2023, the first time a number has been put on how often the medical system workaround is being used. The research was conducted for the Society of Family Planning, which supports abortion rights.
An additional 8,000 women in states without bans or major restrictions on telehealth abortion were receiving pills each month through virtual appointments, the study showed.

7. In commencement speech, Chiefs kicker targets ‘diabolical lies’ told to women, Harrison Butker tells Benedictine College men to “fight against the cultural emasculation of men” while also criticizing Pride Month and President Biden., By Cindy Boren, The Washington Post, May 14, 2024, 11:39 AM
Kansas City Chiefs kicker Harrison Butker, one of the top specialists in the NFL, branched out from football over the weekend, taking aim at “diabolical lies told to women” and “dangerous gender ideologies” as well as gay pride and President Biden’s stance on abortion in a commencement address at Benedictine College in Kansas.

Butker spoke of what he said were the dangers presented by the “church of nice” when it comes to issues such as diversity, equity and inclusion. He also criticized “dangerous gender ideologies,” citing a recent Associated Press article on “an immense shift” in the Catholic Church in the United States, with many who had “embraced the modernizing tide sparked in the 1960s” giving way “to religious conservatives who believe the church has been twisted by change.”
Butker said the AP intended the story to create anger and, instead, Catholics took pride in it — “Not the deadly sins sort of Pride that has an entire month dedicated to it but the true God-centered pride that is cooperating with the holy ghost to glorify him.” He also brought up diversity, equity and inclusion, arguing “the world around us says that we should keep our beliefs to ourselves whenever they go against the tyranny of diversity, equity and inclusion. We fear speaking truth, because now, unfortunately, truth is in the minority.”

He criticized President Biden, the nation’s second Catholic president, for being pro-choice, “delusional enough to make the sign of the cross during a pro-abortion rally” and for supporting LGBTQ protections.
“He has been so vocal in his support for the murder of innocent babies that I’m sure to many people it appears you can be both Catholic and pro-choice,” Butker said.

8. Australian archbishop faces criticism over pastoral letter on human dignity, By AC Wimmer, Catholic News Agency, May 14, 2024, 3:22 PM
An Australian archbishop has been criticized for his pastoral letter addressing human dignity and legislative challenges to religious and parental freedoms.
Archbishop Julian Porteous of Hobart released the four-page document titled “We Are Salt to the Earth” on May 2. The pastoral letter was sent to Catholic parishes and schools in the Tasmanian archdiocese.
In the letter, Porteous reiterated the Church’s teaching on the complementarity of the sexes, the sanctity of marriage, and the protection of life from conception to natural death.
“Believing in God as creator we see our identity as male and female as a gift. Thus, we see efforts to disconnect gender from biological sex as denying the reality of who we are and the precious identity we have as a man or a woman,” Porteous wrote.

Equality Tasmania, an LGBT advocacy group, strongly opposed the letter, saying it “stigmatized LGBTIQA+ people,” according to a report by the Australian Catholic Weekly
Group President Rowan Richardson called for a “right of reply” to be distributed in the Catholic schools that received the archbishop’s letter.
According to a report by public broadcaster ABC, independent member of Parliament Kristie Johnston — whose child attends a Catholic school — condemned the letter as hateful and alienating for young people questioning their sexual identity. 

9. Chiefs’ Harrison Butker Chides Catholic Leaders in Benedictine College Commencement Address, Catholic bishops should be more like St. Damien of Molokai, the three-time Super Bowl winner and outspoken Catholic said. ‘I believe that this audience and this venue is the best place to speak openly and honestly about who we are and where we all want to go, which is heaven.’, By Matthew McDonald, National Catholic Register, May 14, 2024
Kansas City Chiefs’ placekicker Harrison Butker offered some pointed criticism of Catholic bishops and priests along with advice to college graduates in his commencement address at Benedictine College on Saturday.
Catholic bishops should be more like St. Damien of Molokai and less concerned about what civil and cultural leaders think about them, the three-time Super Bowl winner and outspoken Catholic said. 
St. Damien (1840-1889), a missionary priest from Belgium, spent nearly 16 years ministering to lepers in Hawaii before dying of their disease. 
“His heroism is looked at today as something set apart and unique when ideally it should not be unique at all,” Butker told the graduates at the Catholic liberal arts college in Atchison, Kansas, on May 11, the day after St. Damien’s feast day. “For as a father loves his child, so a shepherd should love his spiritual children, too. That goes even more so for our bishops, these men who are present-day apostles.” 
He said bishops are rightly “not politicians but shepherds,” but that they have given up their influence by not leading properly. 
“Our bishops once had adoring crowds of people kissing their rings and taking in their every word, but now relegate themselves to a position of inconsequential existence. Now, when a bishop of a diocese or the bishops’ conference as a whole puts out an important document on this matter or that, nobody even takes a moment to read it, let alone follow it,” Butker said. 
“No. Today, our shepherds are far more concerned with keeping the doors open to the chancery than they are with saying the difficult stuff out loud. It seems that the only time you hear from your bishops is when it’s time for the annual appeal, whereas we need our bishops to be vocal about the teachings of the Church, setting aside their own personal comfort and embracing their cross,” he said.
He also criticized President Joe Biden and other Catholic leaders. 

10. Dear Pope Francis, Come to America!, It’s our fervent hope that you will venture further afield in our nation to experience the beauty, faith and warmth of America and its people., By National Catholic Register, May 14, 2024, Editorial
Late last month, it was reported that Pope Francis is contemplating a visit to the U.S. in late September to attend the opening of the next general assembly of the United Nations.
In light of this news, the Catholic faithful of America would like to deliver a heartfelt collective appeal to the Holy Father: If you can indeed fit such a papal trip into your busy schedule, please do visit us this fall!
And if possible, please don’t confine your U.S. visit to the U.N.’s headquarters in New York City, which falls within the same geographical confines as your earlier trip here to attend the 2015 World Meeting of Families.
It’s our fervent hope that you will venture further afield in our nation to experience the beauty, faith and warmth of America and its people — and to encounter a sampling of the multitude of ways our local Church is living out your call for the creative and forward-looking evangelization of a hurting modern world that’s in desperate need of the salvific love and mercy of Jesus Christ.

Significantly, it would also provide a much-needed opportunity to dispel inaccuracies about the U.S. Church that have been propagated in Rome by some papal advisers, such as Jesuit Father Antonio Spadaro. Such misunderstandings have also been fostered by the caricatures of faithful American Catholics that our own nation’s secular press routinely propagates. 
A recent example is an April 30 Associated Press article, titled “‘A step back in time’: America’s Catholic Church sees an immense shift toward the old ways.” The article falsely conflates contemporary U.S. expressions of orthodox belief and worship with a hidebound and backward-facing traditionalism. As a result, it’s guilty of a number of howlers, such as mischaracterizing the Catholic campus apostolate Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS) as “a traditionalist organization.”
Given the predominance of such reporting, it’s small wonder that Pope Francis reportedly commented last year that the Church in the U.S. “has a very strong reactionary attitude,” as the AP article pointedly notes.
In fact, as the Holy Father will be delighted to discern if he is able to travel more extensively here, nothing could be further from the truth. FOCUS itself is a case in point. A visit to any of the 193 campuses where youthful FOCUS missionaries are in place would provide an opportunity to see how they are drawing college students toward Christ

So please, Holy Father, do come to America if you can. We’d love to welcome you once again!
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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