1. Why Science Alone Could Not Tell Us Whether to Reopen Notre Dame, It is a moral question in which important principles are in tension.

By John I. Jenkins, The New York Times, May 26, 2020, 5:00 AM, Opinion

For questions about moral value — how we ought to decide and act — science can inform our deliberations, but it cannot provide the answer.

At the University of Notre Dame, we recently announced our plans to return students to campus for the fall semester. In order to reduce the chances that students from around the country and the world with multiple departures and returns will carry pathogens with them, we will bring students back two weeks early, forgo a fall break and finish the semester before Thanksgiving.

As soon as students arrive in August, we will conduct orientations to welcome them back in the Covid-19 era. We will also institute extensive protocols for testing; contact tracing and quarantining; and preventive measures, such as hand-washing, physical distancing and, in certain settings, the wearing of masks. This is how we can restore in-person classes safely.

Our focus to this point has been on restarting our educational and research efforts, and we will soon turn to answer the question of how many games we will play, when we will play them and how many fans will be in the stadium.

We are in our society regularly willing to take on ourselves or impose on others risks — even lethal risks — for the good of society.

The pivotal question for us individually and as a society is not whether we should take risks, but what risks are acceptable and why. Disagreements among us on that question are deep and vigorous, but I’d hope for wide agreement that the education of young people — the future leaders of our society — is worth risking a good deal.

Perhaps what we most need now, alongside science, is that kind of courage and the practical wisdom it requires. Notre Dame’s recent announcement about reopening is the attempt to find the courageous mean as we face the threat of the virus and seek to continue our mission of education and inquiry.

Father Jenkins is the president of the University of Notre Dame


2. COVID-19 Relief and Saving Catholic Schools.

By Mary Rice Hasson And Theresa Farnan, Public Discourse, May 25, 2020, Opinion

The COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown have significantly disrupted the education of every schoolchild in America. Students, families, and schools are scrambling to envision what “back to school” might look like, especially in communities ravaged by sudden economic collapse. For these communities, the practical problems—figuring out masks, sanitizing classrooms, and delivering flexible instruction using online technology—are not their most pressing concerns. Funding is. This is especially true for the 10 percent of American schoolchildren whose schools are not funded by the government, including those who attend Catholic schools.

For over seventy years, Catholic schools have played an essential role in our country’s educational “supply chain,” delivering on the promise to provide all enrolled students—Catholic and non-Catholic alike—with a sound formation in character and virtue, as well as excellent academics.

The same day the Archdiocese of St. Louis announced the school closures, the US House of Representatives passed the HEROES Act, a $3 trillion dollar stimulus that includes, according to EdWeek, “$100 billion for K-12 and higher education, $915 billion in state and local aid that could be used to help schools, and $1.5 billion to expand student access to the internet.”

It turns out the HEROES Act is rather heartless towards parents like Evie Moore (and her daughters) who depend on Catholic schools. The school superintendents’ lobby (ASSA) boasts that the HEROES Act includes specific language “reigning in [sic]” the Department of Education’s efforts to extend some limited assistance to students in non-public schools. Yes, even as the progressive education establishment is seeking billions and billions of dollars in federal funds for government schools, they are doubling down in their opposition towards giving any aid to families outside their monopolistic control.

Whether through grants to state education agencies to fund government schools or grants directly to parents whose children rely on faith-based or independent schools, the objective is the same: to ensure that the vital mission of educating the next generation continues. Catholic schools are an irreplaceable part of that mission. That was the message that Cardinal Dolan, Cardinal O’Malley, Bishop Barber, and others sought to emphasize to President Trump in a call with him and other Catholic education leaders on April 25. Catholic schools, along with other faith-based schools, are a vital gift to the families they serve and to our country. It’s time to support the educational choices of all families, and to save Catholic schools.

Mary Rice Hasson, JD, is the Kate O’Beirne Fellow and the Director of the Catholic Women’s Forum at the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C.

Theresa Farnan is the author of Get Out Now: Why You Should Pull Your Child From Public School Before It’s Too Late and an advisory council member of the Catholic Women’s Forum.


3. Italy: With new rules, Catholics return to Mass.

By Chico Harlan and Stefano Pitrelli, The Washington Post, May 25, 2020, Pg. A1

Italy’s Catholics, emerging from one of the most rigid lockdowns in the West — one that brought a historic halt to religious ceremonies — returned to Mass on Sunday, praying as they always have while also trying to understand a lengthy list of new rules.

But the day was a trial run for all the ways in which religious services will look different, perhaps for months to come, in one of the world’s most Catholic countries.


4. Minnesota’s ‘Essential’ Churches: Gov. Tim Walz reaches a deal allowing in-person services to restart.

By The Wall Street Journal, May 24, 2020, 4:01 PM, Editorial

Tim Walz has seen the light. Or at least the First Amendment.

On Wednesday evening, we broke the news that Catholic and Lutheran leaders in Minnesota, working with the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, had sent a letter to the Minnesota Governor saying they would reopen their churches this week—without his permission. By Thursday, when the editorial appeared in print, the Governor was meeting with the church leaders. On Friday President Trump said churches were “essential” services and that he would “override” Governors who kept them closed.

By Saturday all parties agreed to an accommodation allowing churches to hold in-person services starting this Wednesday, provided they follow health guidelines such as limiting services to 25% capacity. What changed Mr. Walz’s mind? No doubt he recognized the bad politics of trying to enforce an arbitrary law against people going to church.


5. Could pre-existing divisions hamper Catholic recovery from pandemic.

By John L. Allen Jr., Crux, May 24, 2020, Opinion

When the Catholic history of the coronavirus is written – and it’ll be a rollicking story, which is still unfolding before our eyes – a special footnote will have to be reserved for Father Leonardo Ricotta of Palermo in Sicily, who, this week, became the first priest to resign in protest over anti-infection restrictions.

To be clear, Ricotta didn’t resign as a priest but as the pastor of the Church of Sant’Agata a Villabate in the Archdiocese of Palermo, because he couldn’t accept rules requiring communion to be distributed only in the hand by a priest wearing protective gloves. Doing so, he said, turns the act of giving communion into a “Eucharistic butcher shop.”

Afterwards, some social media channels initially asserted that Ricotta had been removed from his post by Archbishop Corrado Lorefice of Palermo, compelling the archdiocese to issue a statement stating that instead Ricotta had stepped down.

Ricotta, unsurprisingly, is a staunch traditionalist. Two days before his act of defiance over communion, he posted a video to Youtube, his title for which was: “An enflamed homily against heresy, apostasy and false ecumenism in the Church.” (While he delivered it, Ricotta wore the traditional priestly biretta.)

Lorefice, meanwhile, is a classic “Pope Francis” bishop. He did his doctoral thesis on Cardinal Giacomo Lercaro of Bologna, one of the liberal giants at the Second Vatican Council (1962-65), and Father Giuseppe Dossetti, a pro-democracy hero of the Italian Catholic left who was eventually ordained under Lercaro.

In other words, the standoff between Ricotta and Lorefice isn’t just about how to distribute communion. It also pits two different ecclesiastical worldviews against one another.

Perhaps predictably, supporters of Ricotta see Lorefice as the villain, wondering why he couldn’t practice a little bit of that decentralization liberals are fond of touting. Those who side with the archbishop ask why traditionalists often seem to forget that obedience to legitimate authority is also fairly traditional in Catholicism.

Italians of all stripes believe the country theoretically is capable of exiting this crisis in good shape, but pre-existing ideological and political divides will prevent it.

That’s an examination of conscience the Catholic Church might profitably undertake as well, because the challenges certain to face the Church as the pandemic recedes are mammoth.

After two months of being told that physical attendance at Mass isn’t strictly necessary, will people go back to Church? As the economy goes into recession, will Catholic charities around the world find the resources they need to fill the gaps? As parishes, dioceses and even the Vatican itself face declining income and rising costs, will reforms succeed at introducing savings while boosting transparency and accountability? As new styles of life and ways of relating to other people begin to take hold out of fear of another contagion, will the Church be able to help people navigate the spiritual and cultural uncertainties? For those scarred by loss during the pandemic, will the Church stand ready to console them and help them regain their footing?

Those are real questions, and, like previous eras of history when a plague or other disaster has receded, finding answers will require creativity and collaboration.

Granted, the global Church is a different animal from Italy. Still, the Palermo dispute might be a sort of canary in the coal mine, alerting Catholics that if we’re not careful, our pre-existing divisions could get in our way too.


6. Planned Parenthood Chapters Draw Scrutiny Over Paycheck Protection Loans: Trump administration and Senate Republicans question organization’s eligibility for small-business loans.

By Natalie Andrews, The Wall Street Journal, May 23, 2020, Pg. A6

Planned Parenthood Federation of America is facing scrutiny from the Trump administration after local chapters received more than $80 million in loans under the Paycheck Protection Program, the latest flashpoint in the fight over what kinds of entities should be eligible for the small-business funds.

The Small Business Administration, which oversees the PPP, sent letters to about three dozen chapters of Planned Parenthood this week, saying that it has made a preliminary finding that the chapters are ineligible to get money from the program, and directing that the money be returned. The SBA letters said that because it found the chapters to be centrally controlled by the broader Planned Parenthood Federation of America, they count as one entity, which is too large to qualify for the aid.


7. Pandemic has changed parish outreach methods ‘forever,’ says evangelist.

By Peter Finney Jr., Catholic News Service, May 22, 2020

For Scot Landry, the Boston-based Catholic evangelist whose vocation as co-leader of Dynamic Catholic requires him to think in broad strokes, the church has a unique opportunity to step up to the challenges created by the coronavirus pandemic.

“I think the Catholic Church and every parish is going to be different because of the virus and how we’ve responded,” said Landry, qualifying his answer because of the unknowns about how long it will take to find a vaccine or a therapeutic medicine to combat the virus. But, “the parishes that have invested in technology and robust communication with their parishioners have done much better throughout the last eight weeks.”

One of the major advances, Landry said, will be in the number of parishes who move forward with plans to offer online giving so that people can more easily “support the mission.”

Livestreamed Masses are here “forever,” Landry said.

“Most growing parishes, down the road, will continue to broadcast a lot of their liturgies and a lot of their events,” he said. “It’s an open question on how much parishes invest in that. Does it become a central part of their outreach or does it become just a part of their outreach?”

The massive changes in remote learning in schools also have ushered in a technological movement, Landry said.

It’s going to accelerate the idea of the ‘flipped classroom,’ where a lot of instruction happens on video. Then, when people gather with the teacher, it’s more to ask questions,” Landry said. “The flipped classroom could be a great model for handing on our Catholic faith to people because many parishes have been challenged with (having enough) catechists.”

Landry works with 61 parishes across 12 U.S. dioceses. One of the biggest questions he has had to grapple with is how fearful Catholics will be to return to Mass.

“While there is a strong desire for the Eucharist, how will every faithful Catholic look at the idea of a crowded, packed church ever again? We used to look at the Christmas and Easter crowds, if we were able to get a seat, and say, ‘Isn’t that wonderful how packed it is?’ I do think people are going to look at a packed church now and say, ‘Do I really want to be in a packed church?’”

With most dioceses across the U.S. “dispensing” Catholics from their obligation to attend Sunday Mass, Landry said parishioners may begin choosing to attend weekday Masses, when the churches will be less crowded.

The most important thing a diocese – or a parish – can do right now for parishioners is to “over-communicate,” Landry said.

The biggest takeaway from the virus quarantine, Landry said, is the recognition of “how fragile life is.”

“Sometimes people, particularly young people, consider themselves invincible and that they might be the first people besides Jesus to not die,” Landry said. “Life is fragile. Loneliness is high.”

“This is an awesome opportunity for the Catholic Church to stand ahead and provide the spiritual and corporal works of mercy. We’ve always been the largest caring organization on the planet,” he added. “It would be awesome if because of the outreach of parishes today, that people saw us as the leader in caring and as the leader in prayer.”


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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