1. In undisclosed call, Pope Francis warned Israel against committing ‘terror’, By Anthony Faiola, Stefano Pitrelli and Louisa Loveluck, The Washington Post, November 30, 2023, 4:27 AM, Opinion As bombs fell and tanks penetrated deep into Gaza in late October, Israeli President Isaac Herzog held a fraught phone call with Pope Francis. The Israeli head of state was describing his nation’s horror over the Hamas attack on Oct. 7 when the pope issued a blunt rejoinder. It is “forbidden to respond to terror with terror,” Francis said, according to a senior Israeli official familiar with the call, which has not been previously reported. Herzog protested, repeating the position that the Israeli government was doing what was needed in Gaza to defend its own people. The pope continued, saying those responsible should indeed be held accountable, but not civilians.  But the public words from the pope have sparked an outcry from pro-Israel groups, such as the American Jewish Committee, and rekindled historical tensions between some Jewish leaders and the Vatican.  The pope’s Jewish critics complain that more broadly, he has focused on the plight in Gaza, mentioning it frequently, without dedicating an equal sense of outrage to the loss of life in Israel — something Vatican officials deny. His critics also blame him for failing to specifically denounce comments they view as antisemitic from Egypt’s Sheikh Ahmed el-Tayeb, the grand imam of al-Azhar Mosque in Cairo, with whom Francis had developed warm relations.  “What’s happening right now is a return to spite and demonization of the Jews,” Pedatzur Arbib said. “There are stunning polls saying most Italian students think Israel can be compared to Nazis. Something big is happening … all inhibitions are being forsaken. I’d expect an unambiguous action from the church, which I have yet to see.”  Even his harshest Jewish critics are not suggesting that Francis is trafficking in antisemitism, a scourge he has repeatedly denounced.  Francis has become even less cautious in the latter stage of his papacy, expressing himself in strong and candid terms. Last year, he suggested Russian President Vladmir Putin had invaded Ukraine in part because of “the barking of NATO at Russia’s door.” In comments in August, he seemed to glorify Russia’s imperialist past. He recently decried a “strong reactionary attitude” among American Catholics.  https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2023/11/30/pope-francis-israel-war-terrorism/__________________________________________________________ 2. Pope’s Critics Feel the Sting After His Patience Runs Out, Vatican observers see a leader more willing to crack down on those seeking to derail his agenda for the Roman Catholic Church., By Jason Horowitz, The New York Times, November 30, 2023, 5:31 AM As Pope Francis smiled warmly at the circus performers spinning and flipping in front of him at his weekly general audience in the Vatican on Wednesday, he looked every bit the grandfatherly figure who has for the last decade sought to make the church a kinder, gentler and more inclusive place. Except for the people feeling his wrath. There is a sense among some Vatican analysts and conservatives that Francis, who is suffering from a lung inflammation that forced him to pass off his readings at the event and to cancel an important trip to Dubai this weekend, is increasingly focusing his depleted energies on settling scores and cleaning house. In the last month, he has turned his focus on two of his most vocal and committed conservative critics in the United States, and in the year since the death of his conservative predecessor, Benedict XVI, he has exiled a previously protected chief antagonist and moved against others who have accused him of destroying the church.  But Cardinal Burke is hardly alone in facing the pope’s ire. In 2014, Francis seemed to give a major promotion to the Guinean Cardinal Robert Sarah, a figure beloved by traditionalists, making him head of the church’s office on liturgy. But critics argued that Cardinal Sarah was isolated at the top because Francis surrounded him with his own allies. He ultimately removed the church’s prayer book from Cardinal Sarah’s hands altogether, accepting his resignation, and then cracked down on the use of the old Latin Mass, beloved by Cardinal Sarah, Cardinal Burke and other conservatives, arguing it had been used for disunity in the church. In 2017, Francis perplexed Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller, then the church’s doctrinal watchdog, by ordering him to fire three conservative priests in his office. Then Francis got rid of Cardinal Müller.  Earlier this year, soon after the death of Benedict XVI, Francis essentially exiled to Germany Archbishop Georg Gänswein, Benedict’s personal secretary, who had served as prefect of the papal household. Archbishop Gänswein had published a book that exposed tensions between Francis and Benedict.  https://www.nytimes.com/2023/11/29/world/europe/pope-francis-american-cardinals.html__________________________________________________________ 3. A Francis (George) Generation?, By Stephen P. White, The Catholic Thing, November 30, 2023, Opinion Last October, The Catholic Project, which I direct at The Catholic University of America, published initial results from the largest survey of American Catholic priests in more than 50 years, the National Study of Catholic Priests (NSCP). Our initial report looked to answer several questions, including whether or not priests are flourishing (they are) and how the abuse crisis, and the Church’s response to that crisis, has affected trust and confidence between priests and bishops (it has, and not for the better). Last month, our team published a second report laying out some additional insights from the NSCP, looking more closely at polarization within the presbyterate, particularly between older and younger generations of priests.  In short, our study demonstrated with hard data what everyone already knew: young American priests tend to be more conservative than their older peers. But that’s not all our data showed. It turns out that the narrative that young conservative men are taking over the American presbyterate isn’t as straightforward as it might seem.  First, our data suggests not so much a triumphant flood of conservative vocations as a near-total collapse of priestly vocations from men who see themselves as theologically progressive or politically liberal. What’s more, this collapse isn’t a sudden or recent trend, but appears to be steady and unbroken all the way back to the cohorts ordained in the immediate aftermath of the Second Vatican Council. If I were a bishop or vocations director, I would be very eager to better understand this collapse. One explanation can be found in a homily given by the late Cardinal Francis George. Even a quarter-century later, his words retain a striking relevance: “Liberal Catholicism is an exhausted project. Essentially a critique, even a necessary critique at one point in our history, it is now parasitical on a substance that no longer exists. It has shown itself unable to pass on the faith in its integrity and inadequate, therefore, in fostering the joyful self-surrender called for in Christian marriage, in consecrated life, in ordained priesthood. It no longer gives us life.”  Here, our study shows a significant (and I think, encouraging) deviation from the common narrative of liberal collapse and conservative advance among priests. While younger priests are much more likely to see themselves as politically conservative than their older peers, the youngest cohort of American priests is also the most likely of all the cohorts we surveyed to describe themselves as politically “moderate.” A plurality of priests (44 percent) in the youngest cohort describe themselves as politically moderate. If politics were a significant driving force behind “conservative” priestly vocations, one would expect the data to look quite different.  If one were looking for priests who could avoid the “exhaustion of liberal Catholicism,” while also avoiding forms of  “obsessed” and “sectarian” conservatism – if one were hoping for priests who could “serve as a sign of unity of all peoples in Christ” – one would probably look for a generation of priests that looks, at least on paper, a lot like the younger priests we have in the United States today. But the priesthood, like all vocations, isn’t played out on paper. It has to be lived out amidst all the slings and arrows. As it happens, Cardinal George had something to say about that, too, in his homily: “The answer is simply Catholicism, in all its fullness and depth, a faith able to distinguish itself from any culture and yet able to engage and transform them all, a faith joyful in all the gifts Christ wants to give us and open to the whole world he died to save. The Catholic faith shapes a church with a lot of room for differences in pastoral approach, for discussion and debate, for initiatives as various as the peoples whom God loves. But, more profoundly, the faith shapes a church which knows her Lord and knows her own identity, a church able to distinguish between what fits into the tradition that unites her to Christ and what is a false start or a distorting thesis, a church united here and now because she is always one with the church throughout the ages and with the saints in heaven.” Francis George saw clearly what it meant to be faithful and also united in fractious and divided times. Our young priests – and all the rest of us, too – would do well to carefully consider the wisdom of his words. https://www.thecatholicthing.org/2023/11/30/a-francis-george-generation/__________________________________________________________ 4. Nicaraguan dictatorship releases new photos, video of imprisoned Bishop Álvarez, By Walter Sanchez Silva, Catholic News Agency, November 30, 2023, 9:30 AM In response to demands for proof that Bishop Rolando Álvarez is still alive, the Nicaraguan dictatorship’s Ministry of the Interior released new images of the prelate, who was sentenced to 26 years and four months in prison in February, accused of being “a traitor to the homeland.” The measure was strongly criticized by Bishop Silvio Báez, who pointed out that the video and photos do not justify the regime’s crime. Báez, the auxiliary bishop of Managua living in exile, wrote on X on Nov. 28 that the dictatorship shouldn’t think “that with their cynical language and with photos and videos of dubious authenticity they are going to justify their crime and silence us.” “Bishop Rolando Álvarez is INNOCENT and we will continue to shout this injustice before the world. He must be released immediately and without conditions!” he exclaimed.  https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/256138/nicaraguan-dictatorship-releases-new-photos-video-of-imprisoned-bishop-alvarez__________________________________________________________ 5. Pending decision by human rights court threatens to legalize abortion throughout Latin America, By Julieta Villar, Catholic News Agency, November 30, 2023, 5:50 AM The Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR) is deliberating a case that has the potential to legalize abortion throughout Latin America. The abortion lobby has seized on the case of Beatriz, a Salvadoran woman who was seriously ill and pregnant with a fatally disabled child who died shortly after birth. The lobby is exploiting the case to force the issue of abortion as a solution to hard cases and thus open the door to abortion on demand. In an effort to prevent such a decision by the court, more than 40 organizations demonstrated this week in front of the IACHR’s building in Costa Rica to demand that the judges not issue a verdict in favor of the “abortion industry.” The demonstration, called by the National Front for Life, was held in the town of San Pedro de Montes de Oca, where the judges are in session.  https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/256135/pending-decision-by-human-rights-court-could-legalize-abortion-throughout-latin-america__________________________________________________________ 6. Activist group pushes to enshrine abortion rights in Arkansas constitution, By Daniel Payne, Catholic News Agency, November 29, 2023, 5:00 PM An activist group in Arkansas this week announced an effort to pass a state constitutional amendment protecting the right to abortion, with the southern state becoming the latest abortion battleground in the post-Roe v. Wade U.S.  The group For AR People, which bills itself as working to “build a stronger state that works for everyone,” announced on Monday the formation of the group Arkansans for Limited Government in support of the Arkansas Reproductive Healthcare Amendment. The amendment as currently written would forbid the state from restricting “access to abortion within 18 weeks of conception, or in cases of rape, incest, [and] in the event of a fatal fetal anomaly.”   https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/256139/activist-group-pushing-to-enshrine-abortion-rights-in-arkansas-constitution__________________________________________________________ 7. Catholic cathedral complex bombed, bishop flees with refugees in worsening Myanmar civil war, By Peter Pinedo, Catholic News Agency, November 29, 2023, 4:30 PM The pastoral center of Christ the King Cathedral in Loikaw, Myanmar, was bombed on Nov. 26 and occupied by the Burmese military the next day, according to reporting by Agenzia Fides, the news arm of Pontifical Mission Societies. Though no one was killed in the bombing, the pastoral center’s ceiling collapsed and Bishop Celso Ba Shwe and the 80 refugees taking shelter in the church were forced to flee, per the Hong Kong Catholic news service UCA News. Shwe said in a statement published by Agenzia Fides that “the Burmese army tried to take the Christ the King Cathedral complex three times” before finally occupying it on Nov. 27. “As a local bishop,” Shwe said, “I, together with the priests, tried to convince the military generals of the importance of the religious sites and asked them to leave the place to spare, where displaced people are also welcomed.”  https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/256136/catholic-cathedral-complex-bombed-bishop-flees-with-refugees-in-worsening-myanmar-civil-war__________________________________________________________ 8. Why many Americans would want a large family, By Grazie Pozo Christie, Angelus, November 29, 2023, Opinion When you have five children, you become accustomed to the spontaneous comments from strangers when they see your offspring spilling out of your minivan. “What, you and your husband didn’t own a TV?” is one that got old rather quickly, but having been raised to be unfailingly polite, I always respond with a chuckle. Over the years, however, I’ve noticed that reactions have tended to become more positive, admiring, even wistful: “Wow, you are a champ!” and “Oh, I also wanted a large family, but we just couldn’t.” This is my anecdotal experience, but it tracks nicely with the results of a recent Gallup poll which found that the percentage of Americans that think the ideal family should include three or more children is as high as it was in 1950. Today, almost half believe this, compared to a third in 2003. Sadly, those desires for a large family are not matched with their fulfillment. The American birth rate is dangerously low at 1.6 births/woman, well beneath the replacement rate of 2.1 (the statistical number of children each woman would have to have in order to keep the population stable). Much has been written about this widening mismatch, with thinkers and experts offering ideas on how to help Americans have more children, as they seem to want. There’s little question that larger families are a positive good for the country, as a demographically top-heavy society (with more old people, and fewer younger ones) presents all kinds of problems, beginning with economic ones (see: Japan). Some researchers suggest that boosting the marriage rate or encouraging couples to get married earlier in life could help. Others point to inflation, housing shortages, and the stratospheric cost of higher education as root causes that could be curbed. The Brookings Institution calculated the cost of raising a child to adulthood today at $310,000, not including education. Gulp. I’ll leave possible solutions for these existential problems to the experts. I’m more interested in why larger families have become aspirational, even as the material obstacles multiply. I would like to think that, as modern and increasingly removed from all things “earthy” as we are, something about our ancestors’ conviction that sons and daughters are like flowers in a well-tended garden, or “arrows in a soldier’s quiver,” still rings true for us. An older wisdom held that children were a net-positive: they were bearers of joy and excitement, prudent safeguards against the loneliness and dependency of old age, and fitting, happy workers in the family vineyard. The man with sons could pass on his wisdom and craft, as his father had to him. A woman with daughters had a web of female connection, a strong safety net stretched out under the precariousness of life.  “Thy wife shall be a fruitful vine, in the innermost parts of thy house; thy children like olive plants about thy table,“ the psalmist says. “Behold, thus shall the man be blessed that fears God” (Psalm 128.3). We are, most of us, far away from vineyards and olive plants, but our lives are marked by the same desire for the blessings of connection. Something tells us that some are better than none, and so more must be even better. One child giggling and glad to see us when we come home harried after a long day is only topped by two children at the door and a cooing, messy-faced baby in a highchair. And when those sons and daughters grow up, they become our special friends, the ones that will be there to care for us when our days of need inevitably arrive. The  trappings of modern life may protect us from much, but they can’t protect us from the iron wheel of life, which sweeps us up and then inexorably down, down. Thank God for our children who are there to catch us. A large family is an act of prudence in a hard and often joyless world. It’s also a great yes to the question of existence. It’s a vote of confidence in the essential goodness of God’s plan of salvation and a sign of our ready cooperation with his strategy. Christianity teaches that conceiving a child is an extraordinary act of co-creation with God himself and that we, the flawed vessels we are, participate in the crowning of his spectacular design. If any of these thoughts and longings sound familiar, that’s a great sign. It means that we are just as human today as we were when the psalmists sang of the joy of generation. And that we are just as able to understand the principle behind the ancient belief: “Children are a gift from the Lord; they are a reward from him.” https://angelusnews.com/voices/america-large-families/__________________________________________________________

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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