1. High court weighs birth-control access: Case pits religious liberty against ACA expansion of women’s health care.

By Ann E. Marimow, The Washington Post, May 7, 2020, Pg. A2

The Supreme Court on Wednesday struggled with the question of how to ensure access to birth control at no cost for women while respecting the religious beliefs of employers who say providing contraceptive coverage violates their faith.

Several justices, including Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Elena Kagan, questioned Wednesday whether the exemptions in the Trump administration’s new rules are too broad.

Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor repeatedly expressed concerns about the possibility that tens of thousands of women could be left without no-cost access to birth control.

[Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr.] pointed to the high court’s earlier decision that held if a person sincerely believes that it is immoral to perform an act that enables another person to commit an immoral act, “a federal court does not have the right to say that this person is wrong on the question of moral complicity.”

Kavanaugh acknowledged the “very strong interests on both sides,” but suggested it was up to each administration to use its discretion in the absence of specific limits imposed by Congress.


2. Catholic schools are at risk and so are the students.

By Maureen Ferguson, The Hill, May 7, 2020, 7:00 AM, Opinion

It was an unusual call, but, then, these are unusual times. President Trump met recently — virtually, of course — with top leaders of the Catholic Church in the United States to discuss the survival of Catholic schools. Catholic schools make up the largest system of private schools in this country and they are facing massive closures due to the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic. I had the privilege of being a fly on the wall during that conversation and can report that the discussion acknowledged some good news, but also pointed to a pressing need. And a way to meet that pressing need.

First, much appreciation was expressed for the Trump administration’s inclusion of faith-based institutions in the CARES Act’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). This has allowed many Catholic schools to keep its teachers, bus-drivers, and other staff on the payroll (for now). This was a huge victory for people of all faiths — to be treated as equal partners in America’s public square, as the Supreme Court affirmed is proper in Trinity Lutheran v. Comer. When it came to the PPP, the Trump administration made clear that we’re all in this together.

While the PPP helped schools survive in the short-term, many will soon again be on the brink of closure, and the cardinals on the phone call were sounding the alarm bells.

Why should the president — or other non-Catholics for that matter — care about the fate of Catholic schools? The answer to this question clearly caught President Trump’s attention on the call: Catholic schools save the taxpayers $24 billion a year.

More importantly, the students at these less costly schools perform far better than their public-school counterparts. While many Catholic schools serve underprivileged areas with failing public schools, they have a staggering 99 percent graduation rate and 86 percent of their graduates go to college. A full 20 percent are minority students, and almost 20 percent are not even Catholic.

But the faith component is key to this successful model. A recent Harvard study showed kids who are raised with faith are happier and healthier, with lower rates of depression, drug and alcohol abuse. Catholic schools include a dose of character education — and an even stronger dose of love. Children are better able to thrive and reach their potential with this wind in their sails.

The CARES Act has certainly provided short-term help, but more is needed in the wake of the virus’s economic devastation. The Administration has proposed “The Education Freedom Scholarship” tax-credit program to help parents like Justice Sotomayor’s mother have a choice in the education of her child. This would be a lifeline to families who cannot otherwise afford to pay tuition and at a savings to taxpayers. Squandering this opportunity would be a tragedy for the future Sonias out there.

Maureen Ferguson is a senior fellow for The Catholic Association.


3. Many causes to recent decline in American religiosity; but U.S. more religious now than at Founding.

By Christopher White, Crux, May 7, 2020

While American religiosity may be in rapid decline, a new study reveals that the United States remains more religious than many other countries and is presently more religious than at many other times in its own history.

Further, the study posits that the social, political, and legal environment in the country has become less hospitable to all religions over the last 75 years and argues that decreased religiosity can be attributed to more secularized education and a decline in marriage.

The study, “Promise and Peril: The History of American Religiosity and its Recent Decline” was released on April 30 by the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) and is authored by Lyman Stone, an AEI adjunct fellow and a research fellow at the Institute for Family Studies.

Stone says that America’s decline in religiosity is not evidence of a change in personal preferences, but rather a number of specific policy choices.

In the realm of education, he notes that the rise of the Blaine Amendments in the 19th century, which prohibited direct government aid to religious educational institutions, greatly contributed to widespread loss of religious influence through schools.

Yet despite declines over the last fifty years, which he says is “striking in its speed and uniformity across different measures of religiosity,” he contrasts that with the historical record of the 1780’s at the start of the American experiment where “probably just a third of Americans were members in any religious body, and just a fifth could be found at church on a given Sunday,” arguing that by those standards, America is more religious today than at its founding.


4. ‘How’ of going back to Mass may be just as messy as ‘when’.

By John L. Allen Jr., Crux, May 7, 2020, Opinion

Now that there’s a deal between church and state in Italy for resuming public Masses by the end of the month, perhaps as early as the feast of the Ascension (observed here on Sundays) on May 24 but more likely the feast of Pentecost on May 30, focus is shifting from the “when” to the “how.”

Based on early experience, it appears at least three points may prove complicated as things unfold.

First, Bassetti has insisted that the Italian church must act in a unified fashion, without individual parishes or dioceses striking out on their own.

“It would be irresponsible to run ahead because the common good, the good of all, asks us to walk together with all the sister churches of Italy, who are living the pandemic in different conditions,” he said.

Yet already, that sense of coherence is under strain. While funeral Masses inside churches, for instance, are now permitted most places, Bishop Edoardo Cerrato in the far northern Italian diocese of Ivrea has asked his priests to celebrate the funeral rites only at cemeteries in the open air, avoiding the risks of contact and confined spaces inside churches.

It remains to be seen, once public Masses are given the go-ahead, whether individual dioceses will continue to adopt their own protocols. A bishop is authorized to do so under canon law, which assigns no veto power to an episcopal conference – and, if bishops do tweak national guidelines on the fly, whether confusion as to what’s permitted and what isn’t will result.

Second, there’s already grumbling at the grassroots about some of the measures currently in place for funerals, which presumably will become louder when Mass resumes.

Third, it’s also possible that in the press to get back to business, parishes may be vulnerable to scams offering “help” in terms of compliance with whatever restrictions are imposed.

Summing things up, it may be that getting the greenlight to restart Masses as of a certain date, as complicated as it’s been to reach that point, was actually the easy part of recovery. Navigating the ways and means of hitting the “on” switch may turn out to be even more complicated.


5. US bishops denounce racism, encourage solidarity amid coronavirus pandemic.

By Catholic News Agency, May 6, 2020, 4:54 PM

Leaders of the U.S. bishops’ conference have denounced acts of racial prejudice against Asian Americans as the world continues battling the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Our hearts go out to all those who have been victims of these vile displays of racism and xenophobia,” said a May 5 statement by Archbishop Nelson Pérez of Philadelphia, chair of the bishops’ Committee for Cultural Diversity in the Church; Bishop Oscar Solis of Salt Lake City, head of the Subcommittee on Asian and Pacific Island Affairs; and Bishop Shelton Fabre of Houma-Thibodaux, chair of the Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism.


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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