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TOPIC: catholic church


Roe v Wade To Mexican Supreme Court: What's Driving Abortion Rights Around The World

A landmark decision Wednesday by the Mexican Supreme Court is part of a push in Latin America to expand abortion access. But as seen by the U.S. overturning Roe v. Wade last year, the issue is moving in different directions around the world.

Updated on September 8, 2023

PARIS — It has been 14 months and 15 days since the United States Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, ruling that safe access to abortion is no longer a Constitutional right for American women.

For women in the rest of the world, the ruling reverberated on the weight of the U.S. judicial and cultural influence, with fears that it could have repercussions in their own courtrooms, parliaments and medical clinics.

Yet in what is perhaps the most momentous decision since Roe’s overturning, the U.S.’s southern neighbor, Mexico saw its own Supreme Court unanimously decree that abortion would be decriminalized nationwide, and inflicting any penalty on the medical procedure was “unconstitutional … and a violation of the human rights of women and those capable of being pregnant.”

Mexico is the latest (and most populous) Latin American country to expand reproductive rights, even as their northern neighbor continues to take steps backward on the issue.

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This Happened — August 26: Mother Teresa Is Born

Mother Teresa was born on this day in 1910.

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Poland's Right-Wing Government Is Now Targeting Judges, Personally

Polish Judge Joanna Knobel has became the victim of a hate mail campaign targeting, among other things, her Jewish background. With new threats being sent to other judges in recent weeks, the country is faced with a dangerous deepening of the divide that puts the institution of a free judiciary.

POZNAŃ — A witch hunt promoted by the Polish government and amplified by state media has led to a flood of hate mail and threats targeting a judge who recently acquitted pro-choice protesters who demonstrated during a Catholic mass in 2021.

Judge Joanna Knobel became a target of Poland's current ruling party and Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro in March, when she acquitted 32 people accused of interrupting mass in a Poznań Cathedral. This was the longest trial for peaceful protests since the Law and Justice party (PiS) took power in 2015.

The protesters had demonstrated in a cathedral in Oct. 2021, after Poland’s government dramatically restricted access to abortions. The archbishop of Poznań, Stanisław Gądecki, publicly thanked the country’s leaders for the new abortion laws. In response, masses of young people stood in front of the altar with signs. The priest stopped delivering his sermon, and the police were called in to arrest the protesters.

Now, following the acquittal in March, a slew of comments, both in letters addressed to judge Knobel, and left online, have left her fearing for her personal safety.

“This is what a common whore for sale looks like. Her name is Joanna Knobel and she represents lawlessness."

“The pathological judge Joanna Knobel stated that the protest was not malicious. This clearly proves that she is intellectually disabled!"

This is not the first time that Poland's judiciary has come under fire from the current ruling party Law and Justice, also known as PiS. Last month, the top EU court struck down PiS's judicial overhauls, which included publishing online declarations of judges' memberships of associations, non-profit foundations or political parties. The European Court of Justice declared that these policies were anti-democratic, that they violated judges' right to privacy, and that they undermined the rule of law in Poland.

These interventions have caused the EU to have "serious doubts" on the future "independence and impartiality" of the Polish court, as expressed in a statement by the European commission.

In 2021, Poland was fined 1.1 million euros per day by the European Court for failing to dissolve earlier judicial reforms, which included a newly established body to oversee its supreme court judges, which had the power to lower their salaries or lift their immunity from prosecution.

Last year, the situation became so grave that several Polish judges went on a "Constitution Tour" of Poland, in an attempt to defend law and democracy in the face of the ruling party's increasing attacks on judicial institutions.

Ahead of national elections this fall, the Polish judiciary has once again become a target of right-wing political mobilization. But rather than attacking the judiciary as a whole, the ruling party has now decided to go after specific judges like Knobel on a personal level.

On Monday, Gazeta Wyborcza reported that a judge who sentenced a far-right militant, Marika Matuszak, to three years in prison for aggravated robbery, was also receiving threats and being accused of political biases.

Judges told Gazeta Wyborcza that they cannot recall a similar situation ever taking place, with correspondence targeting Knobel flooding in from all over Poland. This is the result of a campaign unleashed after the verdict by politicians and government media.

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Rydzyk Reigns: How Poland's Controversial Televangelist Has Wielded Power For 30 Years

Tadeusz Rydzyk, Poland's "father director," has commanded enormous political power through his Catholic media empire, despite his controversial support for priests entangled in the church's child sexual abuse scandals — as well as support for Russia. Is his era finally coming to an end?


“When I first became a priest, what I wished for most was media — for the church, for Catholics, for Poland,” Catholic leader Tadeusz Rydzyk told Nasz Dziennik in June.

“Without media, we have no voice at all,” he continued, comparing the church without the arm of the press to “a mute person."

Over time, Rydzyk's radio station has amassed 1.2 million active daily listeners and he has also created a Catholic television channel. He receives generous state funding for his media ventures and private foundation.

He’s been called everything from “the most important unelected man in Poland” to a “colonizer” of his followers’ minds. His TV channel “Trwam,” part of his Catholic media empire, just celebrated its 20-year anniversary.

But does Poland’s “father director” still hold an iron grip on the nation’s faithful?

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Nunzia Locatelli and Cintia Suárez

Mama Antula's Moment? An 18th-Century Feminist May Be The Next Catholic Saint

The Vatican may soon canonize the Mama Antula, an Argentine woman who started a spiritual movement at a time when religious intellectualism was strictly the domain the men.

BUENOS AIRES — The Vatican is studying the canonization of Mama Antula, an 18th century woman from northern Argentina who broke the rules to practice Christian spirituality. At the time, this was understood to be a job for the clergy and for men.

Some see her as an early defender of women's rights — and of the poor — in the Americas. She is also being hailed as the first "feminist" who would become a Catholic saint.

On March 7, Pope Francis declared "the time is very close when she could be a saint." The Pope, himself another Argentine, is an admirer of Mama Antula. When he was archbishop of Buenos Aires, he said "this woman is worth gold."

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This Happened

This Happened - March 13: Pope Francis Is Elected

Pope Francis was elected on this day in 2013, becoming the 266th Pope of the Catholic Church, after the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI.

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Francesco Peloso

Italy's Catholic Church Still Won’t Face Its Own Sex Abuse Scandal

Two decades after the U.S. Catholic Church finally began to confront priest abuse of minors, and many other countries followed suit, Italian bishops who live with the Vatican in their midst are reluctant to break the church's vow of silence and answer to victims.

ROME — It was in 2002 that the scandal of sexual abuse of minors by Catholic priests erupted in the United States, prompting the country's conference of bishops to draft the first Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People in the Church.

The charter allowed guilty clergy members to be removed, and dioceses — the group of churches that a bishop supervises — were asked to cooperate with civil authorities in cases of violence against minors in the name of transparency.

But 20 years later, the scandal, which has since spread to many other countries, is far from over.

In the meantime, things have changed in the Vatican as well. Abandoning its longstanding policy of denial and systematic cover-up, the Vatican introduced policies to protect victims, collaborate with judicial authorities in different countries and reflect on the root causes of the scandal, namely the abuse of power and conscience, and the Church’s tendency to defend the institution at all costs.

Still, the Vatican’s new approach only goes so far, because every law and regulation handed down from Rome must be dropped into the reality of thousands of dioceses scattered across the world, where secrecy often prevails over the search for truth.

In this sense, the Italian Catholic Church seems to be unsurpassed in maintaining a rigid vow of silence. This reality is of course more notable because the Vatican is located inside of Italy, and much of its staff and leadership is Italian.

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In The News
Anna Akage

Poland’s Ruling Party Seeks Tough New Blasphemy Law, Jail For Mocking Church

Poland’s legislature is in the process of passing new “blasphemy” restrictions that would impose jail sentences for denigrating the Catholic Church, Warsaw-based daily Gazeta Wyborcza reported Monday.

Parliament’s lower house has approved an amendment that—if passed into law—would impose “a fine, a penalty of restriction of liberty, or imprisonment up to two years,” on anyone who “publicly lies or makes fun of the Church or other religious association with official legal standing, or dogmas or rites.”

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Jeff Israely

What Exactly Does Pope Francis Think About The War In Ukraine?

Seven months after Russia’s invasion, the Pope finally called on Vladimir Putin directly to stop the war. But just days earlier, Francis had offered an elaborate theory on the causes of the war, which he blamed on competing “imperialisms” of Russia and the West, and the need to have wars to sell weapons.


Pope Francis has not been particularly popular in Ukraine since the war began in February. Unlike other Western leaders, the pope didn’t condemn Vladimir Putin in the days and weeks after the invasion, largely limiting his remarks about the war to prayers for the victims and universal calls for peace.

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A Ukrainian colleague was furious that Francis wasn’t calling Putin out for his invasion. Having covered the Vatican for more than a decade in my prior job, I tried to explain that papal diplomacy tends not to point fingers or name names, partly in their hope of leaving church channels open for possible future negotiations.

Well, on Sunday, Francis finally pointed his finger at Putin, in what was perhaps his strongest call to date to stop the war. “My appeal goes above all to the president of the Russian Federation, begging him to stop this spiral of violence and death, even out of love for his own people,” the pope said.

In the same breath, he also urged Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to be open to negotiations. The pope also warned against the rising threat of the use of nuclear weapons. This is what popes do in times of war: They call for peace and try to save lives, hoping the message seeps into the ears and hearts of political leaders and public opinion.

Still, there are other messages that Francis has been spreading about the war that are not so obvious.

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In The News
Lila Paulou, Lisa Berdet, McKenna Johnson and Anne-Sophie Goninet

Russia Cuts Gas To Europe, Myanmar Protests, SpaceX Rival

👋 Yokwe!*

Welcome to Tuesday, where Europe braces for Russia turning off gas, an architect of Northern Ireland peace deal dies and a European rival to SpaceX is taking shape. Meanwhile, we look at what makes the Ukrainian port city of Odessa such a strategic and symbolic target for Vladimir Putin.

[*Marshallese, Marshall Islands]

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Luigi Manconi

Why Pope Francis Is Right To Avoid Ukraine War Politics

The Pope is being urged to "go to Kyiv," and name Putin as the aggressor in the war in Ukraine. If he did so, the pontiff would renounce his own religious charisma, and ultimately sap him of his unique role and power as the ultimate messenger of peace.


ROME — Precisely because I am in favor of the Ukrainian popular resistance and of all initiatives in its support, I am equally in favor of Pope Francis' unmitigated stance for pacifism.

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The origin of the pontiff's choice should always reside in the words that constitute the foundation of the relationship between Christians and history: Be in the world, but not of the world (John 15:18-19). Everything is contained in that guidance.

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Ricardo Roa

If The Pope Won't Condemn Putin, He'll Wind Up On The Wrong Side Of History

Pope Francis must make a hard choice that supersedes his eagerness to heal the rift between Catholicism and Orthodoxy, which is diluting his already tepid postures on the Russian war in Ukraine.


BUENOS AIRES — It is difficult to find an explanation for the Pope's choice for discretion in the face of the massacre in Ukraine. A month into the invasion, as the deaths and destruction mount, Pope Francis has yet to condemn Russia or its president, Vladimir Putin. As far as our Jorge Bergoglio, the former archbishop of Buenos Aires, is concerned, they are not at fault. Few in the world would agree; in fact he is swimming against the tide.

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