1. The School Lockdown Catastrophe, By The Wall Street Journal, October 25, 2022, Pg. A14, Editorial The pandemic lockdowns were a policy blunder for the ages, and the economic, social and health consequences are still playing out. But the worst catastrophe was visited on America’s children, as Monday’s release of the latest National Assessment of Educational Progress shows. The 2022 NAEP test, often called the nation’s report card, found a record drop in learning across the U.S. since the last test in 2019. The tests measured proficiency in math and reading for fourth and eighth graders, and the harm from closed schools and online-only instruction is severe and depressing.  The NAEP results support the case for school choice. Charter school performance was uneven, but in at least 11 states charter fourth graders outperformed their non-charter counterparts in math in 2022, including in Alaska (+16 points), Nevada (+12 points) and North Carolina (+21 points). NAEP says reporting standards were not met for a charter comparison in 22 states. Catholic schools tended to stay open during the pandemic, and on average their fourth and eighth graders scored higher in reading and math than public-school students. Department of Defense schools performed even better. Students deserve an escape route from schools that can’t prepare them for life and work.  The school closures were a political decision, typically influenced by teachers unions. The political consequences now should be a backlash against the politicians who let the unions close the schools for so long. For starters, that means anyone endorsed by American Federation of Teachers chief Randi Weingarten. https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-school-lockdown-catastrophe-naep-test-results-national-assessment-of-educational-progress-11666643369__________________________________________________________ 2. The Vatican Extends Xi’s Pontificate, The Holy See misunderstands the nature of the Chinese regime—and in so doing, abandons the Catholic faithful., By Francis X. Maier, The Wall Street Journal, October 24, 2022, 5:57 PM, Opinion The Vatican announced on Saturday a two-year extension to its provisional agreement with Beijing governing Catholic affairs in China. On the same day, Hu Jintao, China’s former Communist Party general secretary (2002-12) and president (2003-13) and Xi Jinping’s immediate predecessor, was forcibly removed from the party’s National Congress. That body’s convention, which occurs every five years, marks a signature event in the nation’s political life. This year, it anointed Mr. Xi to an unprecedented third five-year term. Whether Mr. Hu’s very public exit was owing to age-related health issues or a brute display of Mr. Xi’s new power is unclear. But there’s a lesson in it for Rome either way. The exact contents of the Vatican’s deal with Beijing, first signed in 2018, remain secret. Yet certain elements are known. The Vatican has recognized the formerly illicit bishops of China’s regime-controlled Catholic Patriotic Association. It has also agreed to the government’s role in the naming of new bishops. In return, Beijing has reportedly promised increased tolerance for China’s Catholics and legal protection for the unofficial “underground” church traditionally loyal to Rome. Such arrangements aren’t new. The church has a centuries-long history of this kind of engagement when it seemed necessary. The trouble with such deals is simple: Sometimes they work; more often they don’t. And the church usually loses. Even when honored, the arrangements tend to turn religion into a chaplaincy for the reigning power. This erodes the church’s credibility and evangelical mission.  Charles Chaput, then archbishop of Denver, served a term in the early 2000s on the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. Archbishop Chaput traveled to China on an agency fact-finding mission during the Hu years, where he met the Patriotic Association’s bishop of Beijing: a man secretly married and little more than a flack for party policy. But Archbishop Chaput remembers that while “the Hu government was trying to fully control the church, there was also an unspoken hope that the two versions of the Catholic Church—Patriotic Association and underground—would easily come together once there was more actual freedom.” That seemed plausible at the time. Many U.S. policy makers presumed economic engagement and its benefits would slowly democratize the Chinese system. They didn’t bank on being outsmarted. Mr. Hu, hardly a soft man on matters of religion, was succeeded by the much tougher and more focused Xi Jinping. “The kind of control of the church today is much sharper in its intensity,” Archbishop Chaput says. “And with the pope now on the wrong side of the issue, the China situation seems so very different.” Different, yes. And for Chinese Catholics who might reasonably feel both betrayed and abandoned, worse. Mr. Maier is a senior fellow in Catholic studies at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. https://www.wsj.com/articles/vatican-extends-xi-jinping-2018-provisional-agreement-ccp-beijing-pope-francis-bishops-cardinal-zen-catholic-church-underground-hu-jintao-11666612875?__________________________________________________________ 3. Biden wants to codify Roe v. Wade. A bipartisan bill would do just that., By The Washington Post, October 24, 2022, 1:00 PM, Editorial Last week, President Biden promised to send Congress legislation that would codify Roe v. Wade — if voters elect more Democrats to the Senate and help the party keep control of the House. “If you care about the right to choose, then you got to vote,” he said in a speech Tuesday. But Democrats don’t need to wait for a new Congress to start aggressively pushing to protect reproductive rights. A bipartisan Senate bill introduced in August would guarantee rights to contraception and enshrine the protections formerly provided by Roe. The Reproductive Freedom for All Act — co-sponsored by Sens. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) — would bar states from imposing an “undue burden” on abortion before fetal viability. To appeal across the aisle, it would also allow health-care workers to refuse to provide abortions on religious grounds. Mr. Kaine has described it as a “time machine,” because it would reinstate the protections women had enjoyed for nearly five decades before this summer’s Supreme Court ruling on abortion. Yet the bill has stalled amid intense criticism from abortion rights advocates and some progressive lawmakers, who believe it doesn’t go far enough. These figures prefer another bill, the Women’s Health Protection Act, which would not only uphold the right to abortion but also bar the kinds of cynical restrictions on access enacted during the Roe era. Though it has twice passed the House, it is a non-starter in this Senate: Moderate Republicans such as Ms. Collins and Ms. Murkowski oppose it, as does Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.). For it to pass, Democrats would need to gain at least two Senate seats and eliminate the filibuster — steps that are, respectively, unlikely and unwise.  Mr. Biden is right to argue that reproductive freedoms in the United States are inextricably linked to the results of the midterms. The Republican Party has spent decades relentlessly attacking abortion rights and is threatening to go even further. Yet, as polls tighten, his case would be more convincing if Democrats rallied behind this middle-ground measure — and placed the onus squarely on the GOP to respond. https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2022/10/24/reproductive-freedom-act-roe-v-wade-abortion/__________________________________________________________ 4. Is the Vatican’s China ‘progress’ going backwards?, The Holy See announced an extension to the Vatican-China deal this weekend, praising the “small achievments” it has made., By Ed. Condon, The Pillar, October 24, 2022, 4:10 PM, Opinion The Holy See announced on Saturday a two-year renewal of its “provisional” agreement with the government of China, which was first signed in 2018, and renewed again two years ago. The agreement aims to normalize the appointment of bishops in China, and ensure unity of the Catholic Church – with some six to 12 million members – in the country. For his part, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican Secretary of State, argued Saturday that the deal is “essential to the daily life of the Church” in China — repeating a frequent theme in his defense of the bilateral agreement. But while the cardinal insists the deal is a pragmatic necessity, questions about its effectiveness are stacking up. And human rights advocates argue that engagement with the Chinese Communist Party is sapping the Holy See’s moral credibility. The renewal of the deal on Saturday – amid some interesting politics at the Communist Party Congress – is likely to bring a round of criticism from the deal’s sharpest critics.  Defenders of the deal, and of the Vatican’s continued engagement with China more broadly, might point to Pope Francis’ insistence that dialogue with the Communist authorities is essential for improving the state of Chinese Catholics in the long term, and for clearing a space for the evangelization of China. The Chinese viewpoint, he said in August, is “rich” but requires “endless patience.” Francis has also pushed back on criticism of China’s government, suggesting that calling Beijing undemocratic is unfair: “Qualifying China as undemocratic, I do not identify with that, because it’s such a complex country,” he said. While China may, indeed, be complex, the reality appears to be it is becoming less democratic as the Vatican continues its dialogue.  Given the tight choreography of CCP media events, it is undisputed among analysts that Hu could only have been so publicly removed on Xi’s prior instructions, with the intention that it be seen. Whatever the reason for Hu’s removal on Saturday, the consensus is that it was a calculated demonstration of Xi’s total authority. Set against that event, Vatican insistence that its dealings with the regime are a slow walk to progress will seem to most analysts to run contrary to the facts on the ground. It is an inauspicious start to the Vatican-China deal’s third term. https://www.pillarcatholic.com/is-the-vaticans-china-progress-going-backwards/__________________________________________________________ 5. In interview with trans activist, Biden condemns states banning sex changes on kids, By Edie Heipel, Catholic News Agency, October 24, 2022, 4:11 PM In an interview with a controversial transgender activist Sunday, President Biden condemned states for restricting sex change procedures on children. In the segment aired by progressive news outlet Now This News, Biden sat down for a one-on-one interview with social media influencer Dylan Mulvaney  Mulvaney opened the interview by saying, “Mr. President, this is my 221st day of publicly transitioning,” to which Biden’s response was, “God love you.” Mulvaney asked Biden if he thought states should be allowed to ban “gender-affirming health care,” such as puberty blockers and irreversible sex-change surgeries. “I am extremely privileged to live in a state that allows me access to the resources I need, and that decision is just between me and my doctors, but many states have lawmakers that feel like they can involve themselves in this very personal process,” Mulvaney said. “Do you think states should have a right to ban gender-affirming health care?”  In reply, Biden declared, “I don’t think any state or anybody should have the right to do that as a moral question. As a legal question, I just think it’s wrong.”  The president denounced states that have passed bills outlawing “gender-affirming” treatments for minors, calling the action “immoral.” “No state should be able to do that in my view,” Biden said. https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/252633/in-interview-with-trans-activist-biden-condemns-states-banning-sex-changes-on-kids__________________________________________________________ 6. A crisis of confidence, very bad ideas, and paying for Peanuts, By Ed. Condon, The Pillar, October 21, 2022, Opinion I have no real bone to pick in the fringe-but-fashionable discussion around “integralism” per se. When I read interviews like this one with Professor Thomas Pink, I confess I find little, if anything, to disagree with. But what gets my goat is when people decide that some selective quoting of Leo XIII or Augustine is all you need to turn a discussion about an ideal ordering of society into a case for someone else’s political movement. Let’s just be 100% clear about this: the United States is a pluralistic democracy, arguably one in the latter stages of decline. But there is no route or path to turning it into a Serene Catholic Republic or integralist Imperium of the Americas, or any other revanchist cosplay fantasy. Catholics can and must be salt, light, and leaven in our politics and society, but there is no parallel reality in which we go from where we are to a recognizably “integral” relationship between the American state and the Church. So when, for example, Catholic talking heads talk about “needing to get comfortable” with using state power to reward virtue and punish iniquity, what they mean is getting comfortable with someone else using state power to reward and punish according to their own lights which, they hope, they can influence to a degree. Strangely, these same talking heads usually end up backing a MAGAist vision and second Trump term. And if that happens to bring with it a fetishistic zeal for the death penalty, racially charged policies towards immigrants and asylum seekers, and maybe a little light insurrection every now and then? Well, omelets and eggs, I guess. Call me crazy, but this is not how you advance the great mission of the Church to make disciples of all nations. You do not evangelize through coercive government policy, you do it by announcing the reality of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ to every person you meet. https://www.pillarcatholic.com/a-crisis-of-confidence-very-bad-ideas-and-paying-for-peanuts/__________________________________________________________

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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