1. ObamaCare vs. Nuns, Round II: The Supreme Court weighs the contraception mandate . . . again.

By The Wall Street Journal, May 4, 2020, Pg. A16, Editorial

To review: The Affordable Care Act requires insurance to cover women’s “preventive care,” which the Obama Administration said meant all manner of birth control. Churches were granted a full exemption, but not employers like the Little Sisters, a religious order that runs nursing homes for the poor. Although the government offered them an opt-out, it was a fig leaf, since the employer’s insurer still would have to cover the contraception.

The Supreme Court agreed to hear the sisters, along with a host of other petitioners, in a 2016 case, Zubik v. Burwell. Then Justice Antonin Scalia suddenly went to be with St. Augustine. Left with the possibility of a 4-4 split, the Court did not rule on the merits. An unsigned opinion encouraged the religious parties and the government to find some real accommodation.

In 2017 and 2018 the Trump Administration expanded the exemption to employers who sincerely object to paying for contraceptives. In a dreary example of liberal intolerance, Pennsylvania and New Jersey sued. The Little Sisters, with a home in Pittsburgh, moved to intervene. A federal judge issued a nationwide injunction, which the Third Circuit Court of Appeals upheld. Now, in a pair of cases consolidated under Little Sisters of the Poor v. Pennsylvania, the Supreme Court faces substantially the same question it left unresolved in 2016.


2. The balance of faith and safety: Religious expression is protected — but it should not endanger public health.

By The Washington Post, May 4, 2020, Pg. A18, Editorial

FEDERAL HEALTH officials have drafted detailed recommendations that would guide the reopening of workplaces, subways, schools, restaurants and other facilities, of which just one is constitutionally protected from government meddling: places of worship. The guidance is nonbinding, and White House officials, who are expected to issue a final version, have reportedly been at odds over whether it should mention faith-based communities at all. That dilemma reflects the tension between religious institutions’ right to special deference and their simultaneous responsibility to safeguard the lives and health of their congregants and communities.

It is true, as Mr. Barr suggests, that a national public health emergency does not afford governors or mayors carte blanche to disregard the First Amendment. It is equally true that the First Amendment cannot negate their paramount duty to protect the lives of citizens under their jurisdiction. Churches, synagogues, mosques and other faith-based institutions are not self-contained communities. Their congregants may interact with neighbors, friends, lovers, grocery store personnel — and, if they get sick, health-care workers. A community’s right to safety and health in the face of a potentially mortal threat cannot be collateral damage in an absolutist interpretation of constitutional protections.


3. Religious liberty upheld during coronavirus crisis: The Department of Homeland Security lists clergy as part of its ‘essential critical infrastructure workforce’

By Tony Perkins, The Washington Times, May 4, 2020, Pg. B1, Opinion

This month, the Little Sisters of the Poor, an order of Catholic nuns that provides care for low-income senior citizens in 25 homes nationwide, will go before the Supreme Court for a third time to defend its right not to provide contraceptives to its employees. The Little Sisters refused to provide “preventive” pregnancy services that, under Obamacare, were defined as “all contraception methods approved by the Food and Drug Administration, including methods viewed by many as abortifacients, and sterilization procedures.”

In 2018, the Trump administration issued a new rule that protects “Americans who have a religious or moral objection to health insurance that covers contraception methods.” Yet the bizarre and cruel assault on the Little Sister keeps on going. But it needs to stop, and the president thinks so, too, which is why he has filed an amicus curiae brief with the Supreme Court defending the Little Sisters. Religious liberty has long been called America’s “first freedom.” It’s the first of the liberties listed in the Bill of Rights, but it’s “first” in a much deeper sense. America’s Founders believed something that President Kennedy affirmed in his inaugural address, that “the rights of man come not from the generosity of the state but from the hand of God.” If that’s true — and it is — then the state needs to honor and protect not just the right to believe what you want but the freedom to practice and act on those beliefs. President Trump shares this conviction, which is why, during a recent FRC conference call with pastors from around the country, he said, “I want to thank you all for praying for our country and for those who are sick. You do such an incredible job. You’re very inspirational people, and I’m with you all the way.” When it comes to defending what Alexander Hamilton called “the sacred rights of conscience,” faith-based leaders around the country are with you, too, Mr. President.

Tony Perkins is president of the Washington, D.C.-based Family Research Council.


4. Sooner or later, Pope Francis will have to face the perplexities of reform.

By John L. Allen Jr., Crux, May 3, 2020, Opinion

The thought occurs in connection to a cryptic communique issued late Thursday by the Vatican Press Office, announcing that “individual measures for certain employees of the Holy See” had been taken after earlier ones adopted as part of an investigation into “financial investments and the real estate sector of the Secretariat of State” expired.

What Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni did not say out loud was that the five employees in question had been fired – and, no less, just hours before Francis would use his daily livestreamed Mass on the Italian Labor Day and the Church’s feast of St. Joseph the Worker to pray for workers’ rights.

The firings came directly from Francis, who obviously decided not to wait for the results of the ongoing investigation, despite the fact that at least one of the employees reportedly hasn’t even been interrogated yet. The termination notices the five received did not offer an official motive, presumably to avoid the possibility of appeal.

The five employees include three lay officials and two clerics, all of whom were flagged last October as suspects in a land deal in London in which the Vatican’s Secretariat of State used $225 million from the annual Peter’s Pence collection to buy part of a former Harrod’s warehouse in the Chelsea neighborhood slated for conversion into luxury apartments, and then requested an emergency loan from the Vatican Bank to purchase the remaining share after they soured on the Italian financier who originally brokered the deal.

To date, no evidence has been produced to suggest that di Ruzza or the other four employees were guilty of wrongdoing. In any event, the deal for which they were being investigated had been approved by superiors in the Secretariat of State and, eventually, the pope himself.

Many observers here can’t help wondering if the scapegoat dynamic is at work for at least some of the five people investigated over the London deal, such as Caterina Sansone, a lay woman who worked at the Secretariat of State and who apparently was flagged solely because she acted as a figurehead to facilitate the bureaucratic paperwork.

Vatican insiders know it’s a time-honored practice here for laity to take the fall when clerical superiors are in trouble, and that script has been widely applied with regard to the firings.

Two things seem clear, especially for a pope who has repeatedly committed himself to transparency as a cornerstone of reform.

First, the reasons for the firings need to be explained. If these five people are to be judged responsible for whatever went wrong on the London deal, it also needs to be explained how they could carry out such a maneuver without the approval of people much higher up the food chain.

Second, the Vatican recently announced that the Peter’s Pence collection, generally taken up around the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul on June 29, has been moved to Oct. 4 because of the coronavirus. If parish priests around the world are supposed to stand in front of their congregations and appeal for support for Peter’s Pence, they too are owed an explanation of what happened.

In the end, perhaps there was nothing particularly amiss about the investment – which, according to reports, actually has tripled in value in the post-Brexit period. But if that’s so, then it’s all the more mysterious why five people apparently lost their jobs over it.

Francis was elected on a reform mandate, and from his own rhetoric it’s clear how much he abhors corruption. Right now, however, many observers would say the Vatican’s finances are more opaque, less transparent, and more in the hand of the old guard than when he started – and for that pandemic, unfortunately, the curve doesn’t appear to be flattening.


5. Religious leaders, business owners and lawmakers file federal lawsuit over Hogan’s stay-at-home orders.

By Ann E. Marimow and Erin Cox, The Washington Post, May 3, 2020, 12:35 PM

A coalition of religious leaders, business owners and state lawmakers are suing the administration of Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan over his stay-at-home orders meant to slow the spread of the deadly coronavirus.

The lawsuit asks a federal judge to intervene to block Hogan’s restrictions on certain businesses and religious gatherings, and presses the state to consider less restrictive alternatives.


6. Judge blocks ordinance aimed at preventing certain abortions.

By Associated Press, May 2, 2020, 11:06 AM

A federal judge has blocked a Tennessee city’s zoning ordinance that banned certain abortions.

U.S. District Judge Eli Richardson issued an order Friday preliminarily blocking enforcement of the ordinance in Mt. Juliet. The ordinance would have prevented abortion provider carafem from performing surgical abortions at its office in the Tennessee community.

The city’s regulations still allowed for medication abortions, up to about 10 weeks of pregnancy, but not surgical, which carafem was planning to offer, The Tennessean reported.


7. ‘This is the moment to advocate’ for pro-life vaccines, says Archbishop Naumann.

By Kate Scanlon, Catholic News Agency, May 2, 2020, 8:00 AM

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops recently urged the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to ensure that vaccines developed to combat coronavirus are not “morally compromised” by any connection to cell lines created from the remains of aborted babies.

Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City in Kansas, chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Pro-Life Activities, said in an interview Thursday that “there’s been a history in creating vaccines of—in some cases anyway—of using cell lines from aborted fetuses,” and that it remains important to highlight the complicated ethical concerns in vaccine research.


8. Vatican confirms ‘individual measures’ taken against staff in financial investigation.

By Catholic News Agency, May 1, 2020, 3:00 PM

The Holy See has announced that new “measures” have been taken against officials at the Vatican Secretariat of State as part of ongoing investigations into financial dealings at the curial department.

In a statement sent to journalists April 30, Holy See press officer Matteo Bruni said that in response to “some questions from journalists,” he could confirm “that individual measures had been arranged for some employees of the Holy See, at the expiry of those adopted at the beginning of the investigation of financial and real estate investments of the Secretariat of State.”

The release confirms that a months-long Vatican investigation is ongoing, which aims to dig into complicated financial transactions and investments made by officials at the secretariat over a period of years.


9. Turkey disputes US religious freedom commission’s assessment of Turkey.

By Catholic News Agency, May 1, 2020, 12:09 PM

The Turkish foreign ministry on Wednesday rejected Turkey’s inclusion in a report by the US Commission on International Religious Freedom, charging that the report comes from a “biased mindset”.

In its 2020 report, USCIRF recommended that the State Department add Turkey, as well as 10 other countries, to a “Special Watch List” of countries where abuses of religious minorities are taking place, but not at a level as severe as in those designated as “countries of particular concern.”

The commission wrote that “religious freedom conditions in Turkey remained worrisome” in 2019, “with the perpetuation of restrictive and intrusive governmental policies on religious practice and a marked increase in incidents of vandalism and societal violence against religious minorities.”

It cited the Turkish government’s prevention of the election of board members for non-Muslim religious groups and its limitations on the election of the Armenian Patriarch of Constantinople.


10. Abortion clinic challenges Arkansas coronavirus testing rule.

By Andrew Demillo, Associated Press, May 1, 2020, 7:14 PM

Arkansas’ only surgical abortion clinic on Friday challenged a state rule requiring coronavirus tests before elective surgeries, saying it’s preventing women from having the procedure.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas, which represents Little Rock Family Planning Services, asked a federal judge to prevent the state from enforcing the requirement on three women nearing the state’s limit on when abortions can be performed.


11. Archdiocese files for bankruptcy amid clergy abuse costs.

By Kevin McGill, Associated Press, May 1, 2020, 3:02 PM

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New Orleans announced Friday that it is seeking federal Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection amid growing legal costs related to sexual abuse by priests.

The filing for reorganization could free the archdiocese from the threat of creditors’ lawsuits while it reorganizes its finances. The New Orleans archdiocese is the latest of more than 20 dioceses nationwide to take such action.


12. Vatican condemns religious violence in Ramadan statement.

By Catholic News Agency, May 1, 2020, 9:00 AM

n a statement marking the beginning of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, the Vatican has condemned an increasing spate of attacks on churches, synagogues and mosques around the world.

Cardinal Miguel Ángel Ayuso Guixot, M.C.C.J., president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue said in the council’s “message for the month of Ramadan” on May 1 that “the context of recent attacks on churches, mosques and synagogues by wicked persons who seem to perceive the places of worship as a privileged target for their blind and senseless violence.”

He cited the 2019 joint statement of Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar on human fraternity, which stated that such attacks are “a deviation from the teachings of religions as well as a clear violation of international law”.


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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