TCA Podcast – “Conversations with Consequences”

Episode 30: The battle over religious liberty in America, with Luke Goodrich of Becket

Your hosts Grazie Christie, Ashley McGuire, and Andrea Picciotti-Bayer this week are joined by Luke Goodrich, Vice President and Senior Council at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, a religious freedom legal advocacy group— a.k.a. “God’s ACLU.”

Luke is the author of the new book “Free to Believe: The Battle Over Religious Liberty in America.”

Discussion topics include definitions of religious freedom based on Church teaching; religious freedom as a philosophical and Scriptural issue; religious freedom as a value coming from God; secular and philosophical arguments for religious freedom; the similarities and differences between religious freedom arguments against same-sex marriage and against racial discrimination; the freedom of Catholic hospitals to operate; and more.

1. Pope Taps Fellow Jesuit to Replace Cardinal Pell.

The Associated Press, November 14, 2019, 7:15 AM

Pope Francis has appointed a fellow Jesuit to be the Vatican’s finance minister, filling a crucial position left vacant for more than two years after Cardinal George Pell left Rome to stand trial on sex abuse charges in his native Australia.

Francis created the Secretariat for the Economy, and named Pell its prefect, as a key part of his financial reform plans after being elected pope in 2013. Pell tried to wrestle the Holy See’s opaque finances into order, but his efforts were rebuffed repeatedly by the Vatican’s old guard.

2. Pope demands tech companies prevent kids from viewing porn.

The Associated Press, November 14, 2019, 6:24 AM

Pope Francis is demanding that Facebook, Apple, Google and other tech companies urgently take measures to remove child porn from the web and to prevent children from accessing pornography online.

Francis was addressing participants at the conference “Promoting Digital Child Dignity.”

3. Student fights to found pro-life group at school.

By Alex Swoyer, The Washington Times, November 14, 2019, Pg. A2

A Florida high school student is fighting back against school officials who shut down her pro-life club because they deemed it too “controversial” and too “political.”

Gabrielle Gabbard, a senior at Gulf Coast High School, lawyered up and took school officials to task for allowing pro-LGBTQ groups and religious aligned organizations but not her Sharks 4 Life.

In a letter to the school district, Ms. Gabbard’s lawyers warned the decision runs afoul of the Constitution, including violating First Amendment protections by discriminating against the student because of her pro-life viewpoint.

Gulf Coast High School has nearly 80 clubs but drew the line earlier this year when it came to Ms. Gabbard’s attempt to launch Sharks 4 Life, which is affiliated with Students for Life, a national organization that boasts more than 1,200 groups nationwide.

4. Sex abuse expert expresses cautious optimism.

By Shannon Levitt and Ines San Martin, Crux, November 14, 2019

(Editor’s note: This is part two of an hour-long interview with Jesuit Father Hans Zollner, a member of Pope Francis’s commission for the protection of minors. Part one can be found here.)

Meeting sex abuse survivors face to face may be uncomfortable, but it is a necessary step in the healing process as well as in coming to terms with the crisis. It is often a life-changing, eye-opening experience, and survivors often have had to fight for years to meet with members of the hierarchy. But that might be changing.

Father Hans Zollner, a German who is one of the Church’s leading experts on abuse prevention and a member of Pope Francis’s commission on the protection of minors, told Crux Nov. 9 that he found it “striking” how many of the local bishops were accompanying victims during a recent visit to the pontiff’s native Argentina.

“That was really striking because I’ve hardly ever met any bishops’ conference where I perceived that so many are really impacted by meeting with survivors and it really motivates them,” Zollner said. “I cannot say that this is true for all, but the general response was very positive and I spoke about the issues as I always do.”

Zollner said his recent experiences in Southern Africa and in Latin America have shown him that after the February meeting of leaders of the world’s bishops’ conferences and Pope Francis’s motu proprio, Vos estis lux mundi, (You are the light of the world), the bishops see “very clearly that they need to step up.”

In Africa “it would have been unthinkable even a year ago, that they would invite me to talk about prevention, and then have a second day to discuss the canonical issues,” Zollner said. But ideas seem to be slowly changing in most places. Zollner calls it a “journey,” and expects to see more meetings and dialogue with regards to sex abuse. The journey is “not as fast as we would like it to be, but I see signs of hope.”

5. Vatican: Pope, Anglican head aim for joint South Sudan trip.

The Associated Press, November 13, 2019, 12:47 PM

The Vatican says Pope Francis and Anglican leader Justin Welby intend to visit South Sudan together if a national unity transition government can be formed in next three months.

The pontiff and Welby, the archbishop of Canterbury, held talks at the Vatican Wednesday. The Vatican said they agreed “if the political situation in the country permits” creation of a transitional government of unity in the coming 100 days, then it’s “their intention to visit South Sudan together.”

Francis recently appealed to the country’s leaders to salvage a tenuous peace deal and said he hopes to visit the African nation next year.

6. Catholic bishops’ new anti-abuse hotline to be ready soon.

By David Crary and Regina Garcia Cano, The Associated Press, November 13, 2019

A new national hotline to report sexual misconduct accusations against Catholic bishops in the U.S. could be operating by the end of February, three months ahead of the deadline set by Pope Francis.

That forecast came Wednesday from Anthony Picarello, general counsel for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, as the bishops concluded a three-day national assembly. The early start-up date would require all of the nearly 200 dioceses to be ready; church officials sounded optimistic that would happen.

7. Archbishop Chaput on Archbishop Gomez’s Election, Voting Issues, Communion Denial.

By Lauretta Brown, National Catholic Register, November 13, 2019

Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia spoke with the Register Nov. 12 at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ fall assembly, shortly after the expected election of Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles to succeed Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston as president of the USCCB.

Archbishop Chaput, who on Sept. 26 turned 75, the age at which bishops must submit their resignations to the Vatican, discussed the new head of the bishops’ conference, the concept of synodality, the merits of denying Communion to politicians who publicly advocate for abortion, and some issues that arose at the meeting, including the preeminence of abortion among the issues that Catholic voters should prioritize.

What is your reaction to the elections, the new leadership in the USCCB?

I’m a real fan of Archbishop Gomez because he was my auxiliary bishop in Denver, and I ordained him a bishop, so we have a special relationship; it goes back a long time. I’m personally very, very happy for him and for his family, who I know in Mexico, but, also, I’m grateful to God that the Church has a Hispanic as the leader of our bishops’ conference. I think that’s very important: to show the whole Church the significant role that Latinos play in the Church now in the United States.

What do you think, with the upcoming 2020 elections, are some of the most important issues for U.S. Catholics to consider in light of their Catholic faith?

Well, the most important issues in light of our Catholic faith are abortion and religious freedom. In terms of our responsibility for the care of the poor, it would be immigration. All of those are important, but the foundational ones really are, for us, the life of everyone. Abortion is the big issue, and religious freedom, which gives us the ability to even say that publicly and aloud in a culture that is not clearly pro-life. Those are really foundational issues.

Of course we have an obligation to care for the poor or we’re going to go to hell, so it’s important for us to also be very sensitive to the immigration issues, and it’s also about the common good and the support of families that are all involved in that immigration issue. For the Church, it is really about families and protecting children. We want immigration laws to change so that family unity is protected in the regulations around it that we have in our country.

8. Putting Civil Discourse Back on Course.

By Joan Frawley Desmond, National Catholic Register, November 13, 2019

Back in 2014, as the U.S. debate over the legalization of marriage between persons of the same sex reached a fever pitch, Ryan Anderson, a Catholic author and exponent of marriage as a union of one man and one woman, faced a barrage of personal attacks on Twitter.

In one series of tweets, Josh Barros, then a New York Times reporter, asked why Anderson should expect a “civil” response to his public statements when “[y]ou devote your life to promoting anti-gay public policies.”

Anderson challenged that characterization of his work, but he also insisted that “even in the midst of disagreement we should treat all people with respect.”

It was just one skirmish in the ongoing culture wars, but the exchange signaled a striking decline in respect for civility — a practice designed to create the conditions for substantive deliberation in liberal democracies — that has only worsened since the 2016 election.

Politically, Democrats have bemoaned the angry, demeaning tweets issued by President Donald Trump and asserted they have fueled a surge of right-wing violence. And Republicans have called out the extreme behavior of partisan activists among the opposition, notably those who disrupted the 2018 confirmation hearings of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh and ambushed GOP lawmakers and Trump cabinet members  in restaurants and other public settings.

But that dispiriting record hasn’t shaken Anderson’s belief in the need for civility — even if some Americans dismiss its value entirely or reduce it to a superficial matter of etiquette alone.

9. Bishop DiMarzio denies allegations of sexual abuse.

Catholic News Agency, November 13, 2019, 1:54 PM

Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn is rejecting an allegation that he sexually molested a minor in the 1970s, calling it a “false allegation.”

Allegations were reported Wednesday against DiMarzio, who recently concluded an investigation into accusations of cover-up against Bishop Richard Malone of Buffalo.

“I am just learning about this allegation,” DiMarzio told the Associated Press. “In my nearly 50-year ministry as a priest, I have never engaged in unlawful or inappropriate behavior and I categorically deny this allegation.”

The bishop said in a Nov. 13 letter to members of his diocese that he will vigorously fight the allegation and is confident that his name will be cleared.

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