TCA Podcast – “Conversations with Consequences”

Episode 32 – Helping the homeless and strengthening marriages in Miami

Your host Dr. Grazie Christie is joined by two amazing guests for this episode in the series “The Church on the Ground: Going Forward in Joy.” In this series we examine the ways that Catholics are putting their faith into action and making a difference “on the ground.”

Malena Legarre tells Dr. Christie about her “Brothers of the Streets”(Hermanos de la Calle) initiative at St. Agnes Parish in Key Biscayne, Florida, which aims to give kids an opportunity to serve and pray with the homeless and the addicted.

She also speaks with Genaro Poulat, who along with his wife helps with the “Marriage Covenant” retreats at St. Agnes, which has the goal of bringing couples closer together and closer to the Church.

1. Pope Chides Vatican Banking Regulator.

By Francis X. Rocca, The Wall Street Journal, November 26, 2019, 1:31 PM ET

Pope Francis weighed in on a Vatican financial scandal concerning the Holy See’s investments in London real estate, casting suspicion on his own banking regulator and playing down the Vatican’s suspension from an international network of financial watchdogs.

The pope made his remarks on Tuesday to reporters accompanying him on his flight back to Rome after a weeklong trip to Asia.

Pope Francis said that documents seized by Vatican police in a raid last month on the Vatican’s Financial Information Authority, or AIF, “seem to point in the direction of mismanagement, in the sense that proper vigilance wasn’t carried out” regarding the Holy See’s investments in London real estate.

2. W. VA. bishop calls for amends, Seeks Restitution from predecessor, Bransfield is accused of financial, sex misconduct.

By Michelle Boorstein, The Washington Post, November 27, 2019, Pg. B1

West Virginia’s new bishop called Tuesday for his predecessor, Michael Bransfield, to pay the diocese $792,638, apologize to victims and to the diocese, and lose his place in the diocesan cemetery as part of a restitution package for alleged financial and sexual misconduct that some church experts say is a first for a bishop.

The announcement by Bishop Mark Brennan follows a statement in July by Pope Francis that Bransfield’s replacement should decide how the ousted leader “make personal amends.”

“I wish to make clear that it is not my intention to impoverish the former bishop,” wrote Brennan, saying the dollar figure is not exactly the amount of diocesan money Bransfield is accused of misspending or using for lavish personal expenses. “We regard the former bishop’s acceptance of this plan of amends as an act of restorative justice. It is also for his own spiritual good and his own healing as a man who professes to follow Christ. All proceeds from Bishop Bransfield’s repayment will be directed to a special fund to provide for the counseling, care and support of those who have suffered sexual abuse.”

3. The trouble with religious freedom, Some members of Congress disapprove of USCIRF’s defense of faith communities.

By Clifford D. May, The Washington Times, November 27, 2019, Pg. B1

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom is a small government agency that has done good work in the past and may do good work in the future — if it’s not transformed into a politicized bureaucracy.

To understand what’s happening and why it matters, you need to know a little about USCIRF.

 The nine USCIRF commissioners are appointed by either the president or a Republican or Democratic congressional leader. From 2016-18, I was one, appointed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Commissioners are charged with monitoring the state of religious freedom around the world, and making policy recommendations to the president, the secretary of State and Congress. It’s not a full-time job, and commissioners receive no compensation.

They are meant to be independent, supported by a paid, full-time staff.

Some members of Congress disapprove of USCIRF. They object to its prioritization of “freedom of religion or belief” — which I regard as the most foundational right, the right upon which all others are built — over what they consider most important: expanding rights for select grievance communities (for want of a better term).

I’m afraid the fight over USCIRF is part of a broader effort to drum conservatives out of the human rights community.

 In this context as in many others, no deal is preferable to a bad deal. But if there is no deal and USCRIF dies, it should be made clear to the public who killed it and why.

Clifford D. May is founder and president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) and a columnist for The Washington Times.

4. Pope Taps Former Bank of Italy Exec to Head Watchdog Agency.

The Associated Press, November 27, 2019, 7:58 AM

Pope Francis has tapped a former Bank of Italy executive to take over the Vatican’s financial intelligence unit following a scandal that resulted in the Vatican being suspended from an international anti-money laundering network.

Carmelo Barbagallo has been head of the Italian central bank’s vigilance unit since 2014.

He replaces Rene Bruelhart, who was removed following an Oct. 1 raid on AIF headquarters as part of a corruption investigation by Vatican prosecutors into a London real estate venture. Following the raid, the Egmont Group of some 160 financial intelligence units suspended the Vatican from its secure communications network because the Vatican could no longer ensure its data would be kept secure, as required.

5. Christian leaders in Egypt reflect on persecution of Coptic minority.

By Christopher White, Crux, November 27, 2019

Two bishops, one Catholic, the other Orthodox, have remarkably different takes on how Christians are being treated in what is considered to be one of the hotbeds of Christian persecution in Egypt.

170 miles south of Cairo sits Minya, a Nile city known as the “jewel of Upper Egypt,” which includes the highest percentage of Christians in one place, roughly a third of its population of 6 million. The majority of the population is illiterate, which has also contributed to widespread unemployment, and Christian social service providers operate the bulk of the region’s schools and clinics.

For Bishop Botros Fahim Awad Hanna, leader of the region’s Catholics, he believes “the Catholic Church has no problems in Al-Minya.” By contrast, Bishop Anba Makarios, leader of the region’s Coptic Orthodox Church, says, “the highest percentage of Christian murders in Egypt come from Minya” and he believes the Egyptian state should look into the roots of such hostility, and not merely deal with it at a surface level.

“There is a difference with dealing with the symptoms and dealing with the root causes,” he insists.

Both bishops spoke last month to a group of Catholic journalists and educators, including Crux, sponsored by the Philos Project, an organization dedicated to “promoting positive Christian engagement in the Middle East.”

6. UK government throws support behind Red Wednesday’s spotlight on persecuted Christians.

By Charles Collins, Crux, November 27, 2019

Britain’s Foreign Office is lighting its offices red in a sign of solidarity with the world’s persecuted Christians.

Red Wednesday is a campaign promoted by Aid to the Church in Need and Christian Solidarity Worldwide to encourage people to “stand up for religious freedom” by shining red light on prominent landmarks and churches, as well as other activities to highlight global religious persecution.

Rehman Chishti, the UK Prime Minister’s Special Envoy for Freedom of Religion or Belief, was scheduled to lead a candlelit procession from Parliament Square to Westminster Cathedral for a liturgy focusing on persecuted Christians in countries such as Iraq, Pakistan, and Nigeria.

It is the first time the UK government has given such an endorsement to the event, and Aid to the Church in Need UK (ACN UK) sees it as fruit of the unprecedented Foreign Office-commissioned independent inquiry into the persecution of Christians led by the Anglican Bishop of Truro, Philip Mounstephen.

The report recorded the widespread persecution Christians face worldwide, and notes that Christianity is by far the most persecuted religion on the planet.

7. Is it time for the Vatican to rethink its line on a ‘Two-State Solution’?

By John L. Allen Jr., Editor, Crux, November 27, 2019

In itself, there’s nothing novel in the Vatican’s advocacy of statehood for both Israelis and Palestinians, since it’s the position it’s held since partition in 1948. Normally, the Vatican adds recommendations for a special status for Jerusalem and protection of sacred sites in the Holy Land.

In part, that reflects the Vatican’s belief that since the active UN resolutions on the issue envision both a two-state solution and a “special status” for Jerusalem, it’s important to preserve those as starting points in any negotiations toward the aim of achieving international protections for the holy sites recognized by Israel.

What’s interesting is that the Vatican is holding fast at a time when many voices on both sides of the Israeli/Palestinian divide are declaring the idea of a two-state solution off the table, saying it’s time to move on.

In all honesty, the Vatican’s potential contribution to any peace process between the Israelis and Palestinians may be limited. Perhaps the best it can hope for is raising the profile of the small Christian minority in the region, thereby offering it some insulation from whatever comes next.

On the other hand, Francis repeatedly has demonstrated a capacity to make himself relevant in global affairs, including his high-profile denunciations of nuclear weapons while he was in Japan.

Perhaps his Vatican team could help move the needle on the world’s most chronic conflict too – even if the price of admission turns out to be a willingness to maintain its principles, but rethink its policy.

8. The Reformed Liturgy, 50 Years Later.

By George Weigel, First Things, November 27, 2019

Fifty years ago, on November 30, 1969, the Catholic Church marked the First Sunday of Advent with the universal implementation of the revised Roman Rite of the Mass, approved by Pope Paul VI in response to the Second Vatican Council’s Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy.

And the liturgy wars broke out in earnest.

They have not abated since. If anything, they’ve intensified in recent years.

As these debates continue, it will be helpful to remember that the Liturgical Movement of the mid-20th century, which led to “the changes” approved by Pope Pius XII before it led to “the changes” approved by Pope Paul VI, believed that the renewal of the Church’s worship would foster both sanctity and mission, including the Church’s social witness.

A few weeks ago, I was discussing the latest twists and turns in the liturgy wars with a wise observer of Christian affairs in the United States, a convert to Catholicism from confessional Lutheranism. When I asked her what she thought millennial traditionalists were seeking in the “old Mass,” she immediately replied, “the awe.” That’s likely true. It’s also true that the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite can be celebrated so that the awe and wonder of the divine presence is palpable.

For an example, go to and click on “Mass Video” to experience the beauty of the reformed liturgy at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Greenville, South Carolina: a parish that is also a thriving example of the New Evangelization, embodying the hope that the liturgical reform, reformed, can energize mission and empower missionary disciples.

Hard to believe, but true—and an urgent reminder that bad history makes for bad public policy.

9. Supreme Court sets abortion showdown for election year.

By Kimberly Leonard, The Washington Examiner, November 26, 2019, 12:59 PM

The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments about a Louisiana abortion restriction on March 4, 2020, setting up a controversial decision on the issue during the election year.

The case, June Medical Services v. Gee, reexamines a ruling the Supreme Court issued in 2016 when it overturned a Texas law that required doctors who provide abortions to have admitting privileges to local hospitals. Despite the precedent set by the justices, Louisiana passed a similar law that was then upheld by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, which helped to necessitate the Supreme Court taking it up again.

But this time a different Supreme Court bench is set to weigh in on the issue. Since the 2016 decision, Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh have been confirmed by the Republican-controlled Senate. The Supreme Court announced Oct. 4 that it would be taking up the Louisiana challenge, and on Tuesday, set the date for oral arguments.

The Center for Reproductive Rights asked the Supreme Court to take up the case. The organization’s CEO, Nancy Northup, said in a statement that it would have “lasting consequences for abortion access across the country.”

Anti-abortion organizations and lawmakers who support obligating doctors to obtain admitting privileges at local hospitals say they are necessary to protect women’s health, but abortion rights advocates contend that they effectively shutter clinics, placing abortions out of reach and that they are not necessary.

10. Financial scandal shows Vatican reforms are working, pope tells media.

By Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service, November 26, 2019, 1:30 PM

Questions about Vatican finances, especially those involving a real estate deal in London, are serious, but they also are a sign that reforms begun by Pope Benedict XVI are working, Pope Francis said.

“This is the first time the lids have been taken off the pots by someone inside and not outside” the Vatican, the pope told reporters on his return flight to Rome Nov. 26.

Pope Francis spent about an hour with reporters at the end of his weeklong trip to Thailand and Japan. He spoke in general about the two countries and answered eight questions, including two about the recent Vatican finance scandal involving a large loan to develop a London property.

The pope also spoke about nuclear weapons and nuclear energy, nonviolence and the just-war theory and about political unrest in Hong Kong, Chile and several other Latin American countries.

Subscribe to the TCA podcast!
“Conversations with Consequences” is a new audio program from The Catholic Association. We’ll bring you thoughtful dialogue with the leading thinkers of our time on the most consequential issues of our day. Subscribe today or listen online and enjoy our entertaining and informative weekly episodes.