1. Racing Against Flames, Chaplain Led Rescue of Cathedral’s Sacred Artifacts.

By Elian Peltier, The New York Times, April 18, 2019, Pg. A9

By the time the Paris Fire Department’s chaplain made his way inside Notre-Dame, flames had already consumed most of the cathedral’s roof and its spire had smashed onto the nave.

But the flames had yet to reach many of the artworks, artifacts and relics, and it was the Rev. Jean-Marc Fournier’s job to guide his colleagues through the many chapels and alleys of the burning cathedral and tell them which to save first.

“I had two priorities: to save the crown of thorns and a statue of Jesus,” Father Fournier said.


2. Can the Catholic Church also be restored?

By E.J. Dionne Jr., The Washington Post, April 18, 2019, Pg. A23, Opinion

The burning of Notre Dame Cathedral, a monument to human creativity and divine inspiration, invites first a mournful silence and then a search for meaning. This often involves efforts to understand the inexplicable by reference to metaphor. 

That this ancient place of worship burned during Holy Week invites, perhaps paradoxically, hope. A time when Christians remember suffering and death and then celebrate resurrection speaks to the yearning for deliverance and renewal. Because Notre Dame was not completely destroyed by this tragedy — or by centuries of neglect, or by political threats — it can be reborn. 

Which invites the other, more disturbing metaphor that has been invoked often in recent days: Notre Dame burned at a time when the Roman Catholic Church, to which it owes its life, is also burning in a different way. 


3. For French Catholics, blaze came at an inflamed moment Church struggles with abuse cases, relevance in vastly secular nation.

By Chico Harlan, The Washington Post, April 18, 2019, Pg. A19

Even before a fire damaged its central symbol, the Catholic Church in France had been dealing with a particularly painful period. 

At the Vatican, the question of how to stem the tide of secularization has perplexed the hierarchy, and Pope Francis last year convened a meeting of bishops who spent weeks discussing ways in which the church could evolve and become more relevant to young people. But the Holy See has also acknowledged that churches are falling out of use, and its officials have discussed best practices for the repurposing of shuttered buildings.

In France, as in most Western European countries, the nonpracticing Christians make up the largest share of the population — beyond that of any practicing religion. According to the Pew Research Center, some 60 percent of French people identify as Catholic. But only 1 in 10 prays every day. 


4. Notre Dame Firefighters Targeted Towers, Focus on belfries, limited water pressure were key to rescuing structure and artwork.

By Sam Schechner and Nick Kostov, The Wall Street Journal, April 18, 2019, Pg. A7

As a raging fire engulfed the wood-and-metal frame atop Notre Dame on Monday evening, city firefighters made a decision that likely saved the structure from complete collapse: They gave up on the roof and turned to saving the cathedral’s Gothic towers.

 As they battled the fire, commanders also activated a cultural-artifact rescue plan with 100 firefighters trained to find and remove the relics inside the cathedral’s treasury. That allowed many objects to be secured before the cathedral’s lead-and-wood spire collapsed, crashing through the vaulted ceiling down to the floor some 300 feet below—a dramatic moment that occurred just over an hour after the fire was first spotted.


5. Man With Gasoline Arrested at Cathedral.

By Katie Honan, The Wall Street Journal, April 18, 2019, Pg. A6

A man was arrested trying to carry two cans containing gasoline into St. Patrick’s Cathedral, New York City police said.

The suspect, who wasn’t identified, was stopped Wednesday night before he could enter the Roman Catholic cathedral in Manhattan, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of New York said.


6. The right to say the word ‘God’, A conflict over religious liberty confronts the Air Force.

By Lathan Watts, The Washington Times, April 18, 2019, Pg. B3, Opinion

Attorneys from First Liberty Institute recently offered to drop a lawsuit against the Air Force if officials would simply state for the record that First Liberty client and Air Force veteran Oscar Rodriguez has the right to say the word “God” on an Air Force base. That’s all. But the Air Force rejected the deal. The lawsuit will proceed.

This legal conflict began when uniformed airmen physically assaulted a decorated veteran and removed him from a retirement ceremony because the flag-folding speech he’d been invited to deliver included the word “God.” The Air Force had an early opportunity to resolve the matter by simply apologizing, but authorities apparently didn’t know a good deal when they saw it. The Air Force also refused to apologize to Master Sgt. Chuck Roberson, who requested Mr. Rodriguez’s flag-folding speech and whose retirement ceremony was irreparably marred by the incident.

Lathan Watts is director of legal communications for First Liberty Institute, a non-profit law firm dedicated to defending religious freedom for all Americans, and a regional fellow of the National Review Institute.


7. Poll: Church membership in US plummets over past 20 years.

By David Crary, The Associated Press, April 18, 2019

The percentage of U.S. adults who belong to a church or other religious institution has plunged by 20 percentage points over the past two decades, hitting a low of 50% last year, according to a new Gallup poll. Among major demographic groups, the biggest drops were recorded among Democrats and Hispanics.

Gallup said church membership was 70% in 1999 — and close to or higher than that figure for most of the 20th century. Since 1999, the figure has fallen steadily, while the percentage of U.S. adults with no religious affiliation has jumped from 8% to 19%.

Among Americans identifying with a particular religion, there was a sharp drop in church membership among Catholics — dropping from 76% to 63% over the past two decades as the church was buffeted by clergy sex-abuse scandals. Membership among Protestants dropped from 73% to 67% percent over the same period.

Among Hispanic Americans, church membership dropped from 68% to 45% since 2000, a much bigger decline than for non-Hispanic white and black Americans.

There was a big discrepancy over that 20-year period in regard to political affiliation: Church membership among Democrats fell from 71% to 48%, compared to a more modest drop from 77% to 69% among Republicans.


8. Vatican doc on sex abuse may raise more questions than it answers.

By Inés San Martín, Crux, April 18, 2019

Following February’s Vatican summit to address the Church’s fight against clerical sexual abuse, Rome currently is rushing to produce a series of documents that amend Church law to address what were identified as gaps during that session.

However, sources who spoke on background have told Crux that one of those pending documents risks being so rushed that instead of making things clearer, it may raise more questions than it answers.

Based on portions of the draft text obtained by Crux, the document addresses not only clerical sexual abuse of minors but also crimes of a sexual nature committed by nuns. Yet at least in its draft form, it’s not specified which Vatican office will be tasked with looking into those crimes-for instance, whether it’s the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which deals with clergy abusing minors, or the Congregation for Religious, which oversees men’s and women’s religious orders.


9. Abortion rights group asks Supreme Court to strike down Louisiana clinic law.

By Jessie Hellmann, The Hill Online, April 17, 2019, 5:14 PM

An abortion rights group on Wednesday asked the Supreme Court to strike down a Louisiana law they say is designed to shutter abortion clinics.

The law would require doctors who perform abortions have the authority to admit patients at a nearby hospital, forcing clinics to close down if they can’t comply.

The Center for Reproductive Rights argued in its petition Wednesday that the appeals court ruling violates precedent set by the Supreme Court in 2016, when it threw out a nearly identical Texas law.


10. How Archbishop Gregory and Atlanta Navigated Church Growth.

By Joan Frawley Desmond, National Catholic Register, April 17, 2019

He has been equally impressed with the archbishop’s gift for inspiring pastors to step up their efforts to address the sacramental and pastoral needs of Atlanta’s vast Catholic community. At the cathedral in Atlanta, Msgr. McNamee has witnessed the staggering impact of population growth firsthand. Every weekend, the cathedral holds 14 Saturday vigil and Sunday Masses, “and that doesn’t include weddings,” he said.

Indeed, this Church leader, a Chicago native, has carefully navigated the myriad challenges he has faced in Atlanta, from his primary task of keeping up with the Deep South’s explosive demographic growth to the sticky theological and social issues that have surfaced during Pope Francis’ pontificate.

Fueled by a robust job market and increased immigration, Atlanta’s Catholic population surged from 700,000 to 1.2 million during the archbishop’s 14-year tenure. Over that period, he opened 12 parishes and seven missions to receive the flood of  new arrivals from Northeast U.S. states, as well as foreign-born Catholics from Mexico, Central America, South Korea, Vietnam and China. “I hope the archdiocese will remember me for [the] growth and development that occurred in these 14 years,” said the archbishop during an April 9 news conference in Atlanta. “Not just demographic growth, but the strengthening of parishes, the identification of our pastoral plan, which hopefully will continue” to guide efforts “to know our faith, to love our faith, to share our faith, and to recognize the diversity of parishes.”

Archbishop Gregory’s appointment is “the continuation of [the tenure of] Cardinal Wuerl by other means,” Robert Royal, the editor of The Catholic Thing, told the Register.

Archbishop Gregory’s supporters, however, see his talent for balancing the concerns of his entire flock and supporting a mix of initiatives as a strength that will be valued when he leads the Archdiocese of Washington.


11. Easter in Jail: The Travesty of the Pell Case.

By George Weigel, The Catholic World Report, April 16, 2019

In December 2018, Cardinal George Pell, former Archbishop of Sydney and head of the Vatican Secretariat for the Economy, was convicted of “historic sexual abuse” in a court in Melbourne, Australia, where Pell served as archbishop before his transfer to Sydney. Two months ago, in February 2019, the cardinal was sentenced to six and a half years in prison. Cardinal Pell has steadfastly maintained his innocence, and both the verdict and the sentence will be appealed in June. Friends of Australia, friends of the Catholic Church, and friends of the truth must hope that the appeal is successful. For if the verdict and sentence are confirmed, the reputation of Australian justice would suffer a severe blow, and the rhetorically violent and malicious assault on the Catholic Church that played a considerable role in the public atmosphere surrounding Pell’s trial will be vindicated – with more assaults on other innocent Catholic clergy certain to follow.

With a few honorable exceptions, the world media’s reporting on the Pell trial, verdict, and sentencing followed the lead of a deeply biased and often-hysterical Australian press, which was another factor warping the judicial process in this tawdry affair. So as Cardinal Pell prepares to spend Easter in jail – where, in a fine display of courage, he has been cheering up those who have come to console him – a review of the relevant facts will help clarify the wickedness of the verdict against this innocent man.

The Catholic Church in Australia will be dealt a severe blow if Cardinal Pell’s false conviction is not reversed on appeal. And even if truth finally prevails and the cardinal is vindicated on appeal, the Church will have a hard road ahead of it: a road that can only be traveled by an evangelically dynamic Church willing to confront vigorously both its own failures and its biased persecutors.

Thus anyone who cares about justice, the Church, and Cardinal Pell will pray that this innocent man is vindicated in the appeal process.