1. Vows to Restore Notre Dame Follow a Harrowing Rescue.

By Sam Schechner and Stacy Meichtry, The Wall Street Journal, April 17, 2019, Pg. A1

More than 1,000 people were celebrating Mass inside Notre Dame Cathedral on Monday evening, listening to a Gospel reading while more than 100 feet above their heads, concealed by the famed vaulted ceilings, a canopy of fire was spreading.

What followed was a frantic, hourslong effort by hundreds of firefighters and church officials to rescue one of France’s most cherished monuments—and one of Christendom’s most important collections of art and holy relics, including the crown of thorns Jesus Christ is believed to have worn during the crucifixion. Paintings, statues and other valuables were passed hand-to-hand along a human chain to get them out of the fire’s path.

 Though damaged from the heat and the fall, it was still recognizable as it was returned to the cathedral’s chief architect.

“It may still contain its relics,” Mr. Durand said. “Tomorrow we will start rebuilding.”


2. Archdiocese Agrees to $8 Million Settlement.

By Nour Malas, The Wall Street Journal, April 17, 2019, Pg. A3

The Archdiocese of Los Angeles has agreed to pay $8 million to a teenager who was sexually abused by the athletic director at her Catholic high school.

It is the highest-ever individual settlement by the archdiocese, according to the teen’s attorney.


3. Much lost, but Notre Dame still stands Amid flames, human chain saves art, relics.

By James McAuley, The Washington Post, April 17, 2019, Pg. A1

There was little time to waste. The wood-and-lead roof was a crackling inferno overhead. Flames were now snaking down the majestic woodwork inside Notre Dame cathedral. 

 Very soon — in minutes, maybe — the fire would begin threatening the artwork, liturgical array and priceless religious relics tucked throughout the warrens and alcoves of the cathedral.

Firefighters rushed in, looking for whatever they could grab and carry to safety. The fire department chaplain — his glasses reflecting the orange flames — demanded to join them.

It included city workers, church caretakers and the Rev. Jean-Marc Fournier, the fire chaplain who hours earlier had been preparing events for Easter week. “We have avoided a complete disaster,” Maxime Cumunel, secretary general of France’s Observatory for Religious Heritage, told the Reuters news agency. But perhaps “5 to 10 percent of the artwork has probably been destroyed,” he noted.

Among the items salvaged, said French Culture Minister Franck Riester, was the crown of thorns that many worshipers believe was worn by Jesus before his crucifixion. Also recovered was a tunic once donned by Saint Louis in the 13th century — while Notre Dame was being built.


4. Parents looking to adopt rattled by change in state law, Anti-discrimination effort may close Catholic agencies.

By Christopher Vondracek, The Washington Times, April 17, 2019, Pg. A6

The Diocese of Lansing soon may join those of Boston, Buffalo and Washington, D.C., in shuttering its adoption and foster care services rather than change its position on gay parenting amid new state rules banning discrimination against LGBTQ couples.

“Faith-based agencies like St. Vincent consistently do the best work because of their faith, and we need more agencies like them helping children — not fewer,” said Mark Rienzi, president of religious liberty law firm Becket, whose attorneys filed the lawsuit.

Catholic adoption agencies recently have been a key casualty in state legislative initiatives and federal regulations aiming to expand civil protections for LGBTQ people seeking to adopt. Diocesan agencies in Illinois; Boston; Washington, D.C.; and Buffalo, New York, have ended their adoption and foster care placement services rather than yield to anti-discrimination laws.


5. Nessel, ACLU threaten adoption in Michigan.

By Andrea Picciotti-Bayer, The Detroit News, April 17, 2019, Opinion

Shamber Flore is fighting to keep open foster and adoptive homes for Michigan’s most vulnerable children. There are 13,000 of them today, and a recent deal between the state’s new Attorney General Dana Nessel and the ACLU threatens their placement in the kind of loving and stable “forever homes” that once took in Shamber and her two siblings. Michigan’s neediest children deserve better than Nessel’s awful new deal with the ACLU.

For more than 75 years, St. Vincent has been successfully placing children in peril in loving homes in the Lansing area.

Tragically, Nessel’s settlement with the ACLU threatens St. Vincent’s work with Michigan’s most vulnerable children.

Last month, Nessel settled the ACLU lawsuit. Her agreement prohibits private agencies working with the state from turning away or referring to another agency same-sex couples. State officials must now terminate contracts with any agency failing to comply with the settlement.

Nessel can hardly claim ignorance of the fact that Michigan’s most effective partners in finding loving foster care and adoptive homes are faith-based groups like St. Vincent’s. Michigan’s legislature recognized this in 2015, finding that “[c]hildren and families benefit greatly from the adoption and foster care services provided by faith-based and non-faith-based child placing agencies.” 

It stated that ensuring faith-based agencies “can continue to provide adoption and foster care services will benefit the children and families who receive publicly funded services.” Legislators passed, and the governor signed, a child-protection law specifically allowing faith-based agencies to operate according to their religious principles. Nessel’s deal ignores the protections and balanced policy of this Michigan law.    

In failing to defend state law, Nessel also has short-circuited Michigan’s constitutional order. She has essentially issued an unlawful veto of a bill passed by the legislature and signed into law by the governor. Her action is offensive to the rule of law.

With over 13,000 needy Michigan children in foster care, an “all-hands-on-deck” approach should be the order of the day. Instead, Nessel is more concerned with advancing a regressive agenda than finding homes for needy kids. Michigan’s children deserve better from the attorney general who swore an oath to protect them. 

Andrea Picciotti-Bayer is legal adviser for The Catholic Association Foundation.


6. The Easter Effect Today.

By George Weigel, First Things, April 17, 2019

Some two millennia ago, a ragtag bunch of nobodies learned what their tortured and executed friend, the rabbi Jesus from Nazareth, meant by “rising from the dead” (Mark 9:9–10)—because they met him again, the same but utterly transformed, as the Risen Lord. The Easter Effect upturned all they had once thought about time, history, and God’s promises to Israel; it also transformed these nobodies into extraordinary evangelists, for the missionary project they launched converted perhaps as much as half the Mediterranean world over the next two and a half centuries.

That Easter Effect is worth keeping in mind in this season of Catholic discontent. Even amid anger and embarrassment, Christians can do the work of evangelization because the first Easter told us that, for the truly converted disciple who has met the risen Lord, despair never gets the final word: God will vindicate his plan for the salvation of the world. And if we momentarily filter out media bias, political posturing, and social media vitriol, Catholics can see the Easter Effect at work in the Church in 2019.

And then there are our reformist bishops. Let me invite those who groan at the very thought of a bishop to spend four minutes with the Bishop of Spokane, Thomas Daly. Here is the Easter Effect manifest in bracing honesty, clear analysis, pastoral concern, and zero clericalism.

These signs of renewal and reform are as much a part of today’s Catholic story as the things that make us angry, or disgusted, or desperate. Think on them this Easter with gratitude and hope.


7. There is ‘hope’ for Sudan’s Christians after al-Bashir’s ouster, advocate says.

By Crux Staff, Crux, April 17, 2019

After 30 years of facing discrimination and persecution, most Catholics in Sudan are glad to see the back of President Omar al-Bashir.

Last week, Sudan’s military ousted al-Bashir following four months of street protests against his rule, then appointed a military council it says will rule for no more than two years while elections are organized.

“In general, whenever a brutal dictator is deposed, there is hope for improvement,” Edward F. Clancy of Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) told Crux.

“It will be good news if the Christians are protected in the new government and if the people have religious freedom. It will be good news if the Christian minority is afforded the opportunity to live and work freely,” he said.


8. Notre Dame was more than a cathedral; let’s pray for its resurrection.

By Dr. Grazie Pozo Christie, opinion contributor, The Hill Online, April 16, 2019, 2:45 PM

The sight of flames hungrily engulfing the spire of Notre Dame de Paris has been experienced as a physical shock by those of us Catholics who have seen it on video, on our televisions or computer screens. Far from Paris, far from France, far from personal associations of memory and experience with what is, after all, just a building, the shock of loss still is real.  

Perhaps this is because Our Lady’s Cathedral is, like other magnificent manifestations of the Christian faith in artistic action, a testament to the highest and noblest aspirations of man in his relationship to the Divine.

This is Holy Week, and we are preparing to relive the death and resurrection of Jesus. He told us: “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” 

He was referring to his own triumph over death, of course. But we can also take his words in hope for the resurrection of Notre Dame and all she has stood for these many centuries. 

Grazie Pozo Christie, M.D., serves on the advisory board for The Catholic Association.


9. Pope Benedict’s Essay Is a Summary of His Theological Quest.

By Father Raymond J. de Souza, National Catholic Register, April 16, 2019

The recent essay of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, “The Church and the Scandal of Sexual Abuse,” was published in the proximity of his 92nd birthday, which fell on April 16. The essay can be read as a summary of key moments in the long life of Joseph Ratzinger/Benedict XVI.

At 6,000 words, it is possible that this is last major text Benedict will publish. It already shows less of the rigor with which he wrote six years ago. And if it is his last text, it is an accurate summary of the man and his mission.

A paramount task, which must result from the moral upheavals of our time, is that we ourselves once again begin to live by God and unto Him. Above all, we ourselves must learn again to recognize God as the foundation of our life instead of leaving Him aside as a somehow ineffective phrase. I will never forget the warning that the great theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar once wrote to me on one of his letter cards: ‘Do not presuppose the triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, but present them!’”

Here we see Ratzinger/Benedict, the master theologian, reaching the simplicity that comes on the other side of genuine sophistication.

In his three-volume work Jesus of Nazareth, Benedict put the most fundamental question and gave it a simple, direct answer: What did Jesus bring? He came to bring us God.

That fundamental question and answer has run through Joseph Ratzinger’s scholarly and pastoral work for more than 50 years. Reason leads us to ask about God, and if we “trust the Gospels,” as Ratzinger does, Jesus reveals him to us. If that is forgotten, then everything else becomes possible. And when everything unimaginable is before us, the only path back is back to God, revealed in Jesus Christ.