1. Red state abortion bans headed for clash with blue state shield laws, By Nathaniel Weixel, The Hill, May 20, 2024, 5:30 AM
A clash is looming between anti-abortion red states and the blue state telemedicine shield laws trying to preserve abortion access.  
More than a dozen states have laws shielding medical providers and others from out-of-state investigations and prosecutions regarding abortions and gender affirming care. But six states — Colorado, Massachusetts, New York, California, Vermont and Washington — have gone even further. 
Those shield laws offer protection for doctors, nurses and other practitioners who prescribe and send abortion pills to people living in states that ban or severely restrict abortion. 
But the laws have only been in existence for about a year and have never been tested in court.
Abortion opponents see them as blatant infringement on states’ rights. 

2. Pope trip to Luxembourg, Belgium confirmed for September, 2 weeks after challenging Asia visit, Pope Francis has added a stop in Luxembourg to a trip to Belgium in September, By Associated Press, May 20, 2024, 7:58 AM
Pope Francis has added a stop in Luxembourg to a trip to Belgium in September, a three-day visit that will come as he is recovering from a much longer and challenging trip to Asia.
The Vatican on Monday announced the Sept. 26-29 dates of the planned trip, saying Francis would first stop in Luxembourg and then travel onto Brussels, Leuven and Louvain-la-Neuve in Belgium.
Belgium’s bishops had previously announced that Francis was coming to celebrate the 600th anniversary of the country’s two main Catholic universities. Francis’ stop in Luxembourg is apparently something of a nod to Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, the Jesuit archbishop of Luxembourg who is playing a major role in Francis’ big synod, a years-long reform project for the Catholic Church.
The Luxembourg and Belgium visit is scheduled to begin less than two weeks after Francis returns from the longest and most challenging foreign trip of his pontificate, a Sept. 2-13 voyage to Indonesia, East Timor, Papua New Guinea and Singapore.

3. God Inc.—Church Startups Spread Franchise Model Across U.S., Entrepreneurial networks offer money and training to aspiring church founders, sprouting new places of worship as traditional congregations shrink, By Francis X. Rocca, Arian Campo-Flores and Adolfo Flores, May 20, 2024, Pg. A1

ARC functions as a startup accelerator, providing money and mentoring in exchange for a continuing cut of church revenues that it invests in opening new churches.
Similar entrepreneurial networks are sprouting new, largely nondenominational places of worship at a time when many traditional church congregations are shrinking. The new churches are opening across the U.S., from urban centers to suburbs, red states and blue, as well as abroad. The “church-planting” networks, established as nonprofit organizations, deploy marketing, branding and social-media strategies akin to other franchise businesses.   

ARC has started 1,114 churches in the U.S. and abroad since 2001, including 40 last year. Average attendance on launch day was about 500 people in the first quarter this year, the organization said. Another church-startup network, Acts 29, currently has 644 churches, mostly in the U.S., as well as in Italy, Mexico and Thailand.

Catholic, evangelical and mainline Protestant churches in the U.S. are losing membership, in part because more young people shun religious affiliation, studies show. Two decades ago, 42% of American adults attended religious services every week or nearly every week, Gallup polling found. Now, it is 30%. As a result, thousands of churches close each year.

In a training session about worship services, a speaker advised pastors to use plain language and provide principles people can use in their daily lives. Keep sermons tightly written, the speaker said: “TikTok has shortened the attention span of the world.”
ARC performs background checks on people applying to start a church, scrutinizing finances, assessing the health of a couple’s marriage and checking social-media accounts.

4. We’ll Protect Both Life and IVF, A Senate bill to clear up confusion after an Alabama Supreme Court ruling., By Ted Cruz and Katie Boyd Britt, The Wall Street Journal, May 20, 2024, Pg. A15, Opinion
Families across the U.S. are understandably worried that in vitro fertilization is under threat. As Republican senators from Texas and Alabama, we’re united on many issues, including the need to protect both life and access to IVF treatments, which many families rely on to have children. This issue is close to our hearts as parents.
The Alabama Supreme Court in February ruled that embryos created through IVF should be considered children under the law. The ruling came in response to wrongful-death lawsuits filed by parents who alleged that a clinic had failed to protect their embryos, resulting in the embryos’ destruction. Following the court’s decision, confusion and misinformation has spread, inflamed by partisan commentary. This has alarmed many prospective parents who see IVF as their pathway to parenthood.
To address these concerns, we will introduce a bill on Monday to ensure IVF access is legally protected nationwide. The legislation would require, as a condition of receiving federal Medicaid funding, that states don’t prohibit IVF. While the Alabama Legislature after the court’s decision promptly reiterated that IVF is protected, federal legislation would eliminate any ambiguity that might arise from future state-level judicial interpretations. Our goal is to make sure that any family’s path to bringing a child into the world isn’t compromised by preventable legal confusion.
Our bill doesn’t impede states from setting up health and safety standards to govern IVF, nor does it compel any individual or organization to provide IVF against its wishes or beliefs. It simply ensures that access to IVF is fully protected by federal law, as there is currently no such federal law in place.
IVF is profoundly pro-family. Some 2% of live births in the U.S. result from IVF, representing tens of thousands of families fulfilling dreams of parenthood. Misconceptions and fear-mongering around the legal standing of IVF do a disservice to families facing infertility. Our bill will honor and support families seeking to welcome a new baby into their lives through IVF.
We invite our colleagues in the Senate—on both sides of the aisle—to support this legislation. The measure should transcend political divides. A recent CBS/YouGov poll shows that 86% of Americans believe IVF should be legal. This is an opportunity to unite on a shared bipartisan commitment to life, family, and personal liberty by protecting access to IVF treatments in every corner of America.
Mr. Cruz and Mrs. Britt are U.S. senators from Texas and Alabama, respectively.
5. Why US Catholics are planning pilgrimages in communities across the nation, A long-planned series of Catholic pilgrimages is getting underway across the United States this weekend, with pilgrims embarking on four different routes, By Peter Smith, Associated Press, May 19, 2024, 10:56 AM
A long-planned series of Catholic pilgrimages has begun across the United States this weekend, with pilgrims embarking on four routes before converging on Indianapolis in two months for a major gathering focusing on Eucharistic rites and devotions.
The National Eucharistic Pilgrimage is beginning with Masses and other events in California, Connecticut, Minnesota and Texas. A small group of pilgrims plan to walk entire routes, but most participants are expected to take part for smaller segments. Each route goes along country roads and through city centers, with multiple stops at parishes, shrines and other sites.
Although it was forged amid a recent debate among bishops over whether to refuse Communion to U.S. politicians who don’t oppose abortion, the pilgrimage is a revival of a historic Catholic tradition that faded by the mid-20th century.

6. Ohio voters approved reproductive rights. Will the state’s near-ban on abortion stand?, A judge’s decision in a lawsuit against Ohio’s ban on most abortions could be near, By Julie Carr Smyth, Associated Press, May 19, 2024, 2:06 AM
A county judge could rule as early as Monday on Ohio’s law banning virtually all abortions, a decision that will take into consideration the decision by voters to enshrine reproductive rights in the state constitution.
The 2019 law under consideration by Hamilton County Common Pleas Judge Christian Jenkins bans most abortions once cardiac activity can be detected, which can be as early as six weeks into pregnancy, before many women are aware.
A group of abortion clinics sought to overturn the law even before voters approved Issue 1, which gives every person in Ohio “the right to make and carry out one’s own reproductive decisions.”
Ohio’s Republican attorney general, Dave Yost, acknowledged in court filings that the 2023 amendment rendered the ban unconstitutional, but has sought to maintain other elements of the prohibition, including certain notification and reporting provisions.

7. The Senate filibuster is a hurdle to any national abortion bill. Democrats are campaigning on it, Many Democrats campaigning for the Senate this year say they support suspending the filibuster rule to pass nationwide abortion protections, By Christine Fernando, Associated Press, May 19, 2024, 7:43 AM
Sen. Tammy Baldwin, facing a tough reelection fight in one of the races that will determine control of Congress, has made protecting reproductive rights a cornerstone of her campaign, and she’s willing to back that up by pledging to change the Senate filibuster rules if Democrats retain control of the chamber.

Democratic incumbents and challengers running for the Senate this year say they want to restore a national right to abortion, and many, like Baldwin, openly say they would support suspending the filibuster to do so. It’s become a key talking point as they try to capitalize on the nationwide battle over abortion rights that has generally helped Democratic candidates since the Supreme Court overturned constitutional protections two years ago.

Republicans have criticized Democrats for wanting to change the rules and are emphatic they would not do so if they win the presidency and Senate.
Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, two prominent Republican supporters of abortion rights, have introduced legislation meant to codify the protections that had been established by Roe v. Wade. In a statement, Collins said she “will oppose any effort to weaken the legislative filibuster” by either party.

8. Can a State Stop Abortion Travel?, A judge says Alabama can’t make it a crime to help a woman obtain an out-of-state abortion., By The Wall Street Journal, May 18, 2024, Pg. A12, Editorial
Two years after the Supreme Court reversed Roe v. Wade, some states have moved to limit abortions while others become sanctuaries. The figures tell the story: In 2023, according to the Guttmacher Institute, patients traveling across state lines accounted for 41% of abortions in Illinois, 69% in Kansas, and 71% in New Mexico. Each of those states borders tighter jurisdictions.
The political fallout still isn’t clear, but a legal question now percolating is whether restrictive states can make it a crime to help a woman obtain an abortion elsewhere. Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall has argued yes, but the answer from a federal court last week is no. “The Attorney General cannot constitutionally prosecute people for acts taken within the State meant to facilitate lawful out of state conduct, including obtaining an abortion,” writes Judge Myron Thompson.

If Alabama held such power, it’s hard to see the limiting principle. Other states could try to enforce their values by punishing anyone who helps their citizens fly to Las Vegas to gamble, to Colorado to smoke marijuana, or to Alaska to hunt majestic grizzly bears.
9. Judge says South Carolina can enforce 6-week abortion ban amid dispute over when a heartbeat begins, A state judge has ruled that South Carolina can continue to enforce a ban on nearly all abortions around six weeks after conception as an appeal continues on what exactly defines a heartbeat under the law, By Jeffrey Collins, Associated Press, May 17, 2024, 11:32 AM
A state judge has ruled that South Carolina can continue to enforce a ban on nearly all abortions around six weeks after conception as an appeal continues on what exactly defines a heartbeat under the law.
Planned Parenthood had asked the law be set aside as courts parse through its wording, which includes alternate definitions of when cardiac activity starts, potentially extending the time after which abortions can no longer be performed under the 2023 law.
The law says abortions cannot be performed after an ultrasound can detect “cardiac activity, or the steady and repetitive rhythmic contraction of the fetal heart, within the gestational sac.”
The definition is currently being interpreted to mean around six weeks after someone’s last period. But what follows the “or” in the sentence could require that a heart has formed, and medical experts say that doesn’t happen until around nine weeks.

10. Abortion rights initiatives make the ballot in South Dakota and Colorado, Abortion rights ballot initiatives will go before Colorado and South Dakota voters this November, By Jack Dura, Associated Press, May 17, 2024, 5:44 PM
Voters in Colorado and South Dakota will have a say on abortion rights this fall after enough signatures were collected to put measures on the ballots.
South Dakota voters will get a chance at direct democracy on the contentious issue in a conservative state where a trigger law banning nearly all abortions went into effect after Roe v. Wade was overturned.
Colorado’s measure, which made the ballot Friday, would enshrine abortion protections into the state constitution. Colorado already has broad protections for abortion, becoming a haven for those in states that have restricted abortion, particularly Texas.
South Dakota’s top election official announced Thursday that about 85% of the more than 55,000 signatures submitted in support of the ballot initiative are valid, exceeding the required 35,017 signatures.
Voters will vote up or down on prohibiting the state from regulating abortion before the end of the first trimester and allowing the state to regulate abortion after the second trimester, except when necessary to preserve the life or physical or emotional health of a pregnant woman

11. Some of the Catholic Church’s best-known approved, and not approved, reports of apparitions of Mary, The Vatican has revised how it evaluates purported supernatural events, such as reported visions of the Virgin Mary, to guard against hoaxes and account for news going viral, By Association Press, May 17, 2024, 1:52 PM
The Vatican has revised how it evaluates purported supernatural events, such as reported visions of the Virgin Mary, to guard against hoaxes and account for news going viral.
Previous approved apparitions have turned these sites into major pilgrimage destinations, drawing millions of people to them each year:
— Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mexico: An Indigenous Mexican man named Juan Diego reported several apparitions of the Virgin Mary in 1531. For believers, the image of the Virgin that hangs in the basilica is a miracle itself, made when Juan Diego carried flowers in his cloak after receiving one of the visions, and upon opening it, found that the cloak displayed a detailed, colorful image of the Virgin.
— Lourdes, France: July 16 marks the anniversary of purported visions of Mary in 1858 by a young girl, Bernadette Soubirous, and the discovery of allegedly healing spring waters in southern France near the Pyrenees.
— Fatima, Portugal: The three shepherd children said the Virgin Mary appeared to them six times in 1917 and confided to them three secrets. The first two described an apocalyptic image of hell, foretold the end of World War I and the start of World War II, and the rise and fall of Soviet communism.
Some disputed Marian apparitions include:
-Medjugorje, Bosnia-Herzegovina: In 1981, six children and teenagers said they saw apparitions of Mary on a hill in the village of Medjugorje, and some of the original “seers” claim to receive continuous revelations. The Vatican has been studying the phenomenon for years, and officials said Tuesday a decision was expected soon.
—Our Lady of All Nations, Amsterdam: One of the most egregious cases of flip-flopping determinations by Catholic authorities over the course of 70 years about the supernatural nature of purported Marian apparitions. In 2020, the current bishop, with the backing of the Vatican, reaffirmed the 1974 negative judg­ment from the Vatican about the supernaturality of the alleged “apparitions and revelations.”
-Army of Mary, Quebec, Canada: After another flip-flopping by bishops, the Vatican in 2007 excommunicated the members of the Army of Mary after its founder claimed to have had Marian visions and declared herself the reincarnation of the mother of Christ.
12. Vatican doctrine czar says Medjugorje ruling not ready, but offers insight, By Elise Ann Allen, Crux, May 17, 2024
On Friday Argentine Cardinal Víctor Manuel Fernández presented a new set of norms for evaluating the authenticity of Marian apparitions and other spiritual phenomena, saying a ruling on the famed occurrences in Medjugorje is still in the works.
Speaking to journalists during the May 17 presentation of the new norms, which stipulate that the Vatican will no longer deem apparitions or other similar spiritual events as ‘supernatural’ in nature, Fernández, prefect of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith (DDF), said of Medjugorje, “we’ll see.”
“I haven’t read the material in the dicastery. I know some details, but we must study to arrive at a conclusion with these new norms,” he said.

13. California governor: Pope Francis told me he was ‘proud’ of state’s death penalty moratorium, By Jonah McKeown, Catholic News Agency, May 17, 2024, 3:34 PM
California Gov. Gavin Newsom said that following a conference at the Vatican this week Pope Francis personally conveyed his endorsement of California’s efforts to end the use of the death penalty. 
In a recent interview with Catholic News Service, Newsom said the pope expressed “how proud he was of the work we’re doing in California.”
California is one of more than two dozen states that still have the death penalty, with the largest death row in the United States. However, no one has been executed in California since 2006, due in part to a moratorium beginning in 2019 that Newsom oversaw via executive order. 
Newsom told CNS after his meeting with Pope Francis that he was “struck” by the pope’s sudden comments to him on the death penalty.

Newsom was one of several U.S. leaders who spoke at the Vatican Climate Summit, held at the Vatican from May 15–17 at the Casina Pio IV, the seat of the Pontifical Academies of Sciences and Social Sciences, which sits in the Vatican Gardens. According to Newsom’s office, he highlighted in his speech California’s climate leadership and called for “greater global partnership,” urging world leaders to “protect democracy against the rise of extremism and in the face of climate deniers.”
14. National Eucharistic Pilgrimage: When is it passing through your town?, By Peter Pinedo, Catholic News Agency, May 17, 2024, 12:03 PM
The National Eucharistic Pilgrimage kicks off this weekend as Catholics observe the solemnity of Pentecost on Sunday, May 19. All are welcome to participate in Eucharistic processions and other prayer-filled events taking place across the country over the next two months.
To take part in an event near you, here’s a guide to finding all the stops along the four pilgrimage routes crossing the country and converging at the National Eucharistic Congress in Indianapolis on July 16.
The stops include shrines, cathedrals, parishes, cultural sites, and parks. At the stops, the faithful in the area will have the chance to join in the national event by participating in Mass, adoration, devotions, praise and worship, and fellowship as well as have opportunities to accompany the Eucharist on the streets as part of the pilgrimage.
Tim Glemkowski, CEO of the National Eucharistic Congress, Inc., said that “a cross-country pilgrimage of this scale has never been attempted before.”

The National Eucharistic Pilgrimage is being organized in conjunction with a three-year-long Eucharistic revival campaign by the U.S. Catholic bishops.
The national pilgrimage consists of four different routes beginning on opposite sides of the country and meeting in Indianapolis for the National Eucharistic Congress July 17–21.
Collectively the four National Eucharistic Pilgrimage routes will traverse 6,500 miles, 27 states, and 65 dioceses while carrying Christ in the Eucharist.

To see when the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage is making a stop near you, click here
The Northern “Marian Route” will begin with a Pentecost Mass and Eucharistic procession at a historic site in the Lake Itasca region of Minnesota.
The Eastern “Seton Route” begins with Mass at the birthplace of the Knights of Columbus, St. Mary’s Church in New Haven, Connecticut, on May 18. 
The Southern “Juan Diego Route” will begin with a Pentecost Mass on May 19 at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in downtown Brownsville, Texas, just a few minutes’ walk from the U.S. border with Mexico. 
The Western “Junipero Serra Route” will begin on May 18 with solemn vespers and adoration at the historic Mission Dolores Basilica in San Francisco, at which Serra once celebrated Mass. 

15. U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom Welcomes Appointments of New Commissioners, By U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, May 17, 2024
The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) welcomes the new appointments of Maureen Ferguson, Vicky Hartzler, and Asif Mahmood. USCIRF also welcomes the reappointments of Stephen Schneck and Eric Ueland.
Maureen Ferguson was appointed to USCIRF by Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Mike Johnson (R-LA). She is a Senior Fellow with The Catholic Association and co-host of the nationally syndicated radio show Conversations with Consequences. She serves on the Advisory Committee for the de Nicola Center for Ethics and Culture at the University of Notre Dame. Ferguson is on the Advisory Board of The Belmont House, an initiative of Belmont Abbey College that seeks to restore civil society, cultivate religious freedom, and reclaim the public square for the common good. She is also a member of the Board of Directors of the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast.

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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