1. Pope Francis Urges Korea Peace Talks as Trump-Kim Meeting Approaches: In traditional Easter message, Pope Francis also calls for end to violence in Syria and resolution to Venezuela crisis. 

By Francis X. Rocca, The Wall Street Journal, April 2, 2018, Pg. A6

Pope Francis encouraged multilateral peace talks on the Korean Peninsula during his traditional Easter address, ahead of a possible historic meeting this spring between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

The pope’s traditional Easter message “Urbi et Orbi”—“to the city [of Rome] and the world”—was as usual a global survey of conflicts and crises, including the Syrian civil war and the economic and political crisis in Venezuela.

On Venezuela, Pope Francis quoted a statement from the country’s Catholic bishops last month that their country, where shortages of food and medicine have become widespread amid a protracted standoff between President Nicolás Maduro and the political opposition, has become a “foreign land” for its citizens.

But the pope didn’t the quote the Venezuelan bishops’ words attributing the situation to what they described as Mr. Maduro’s campaign to establish a “totalitarian, unjust, inefficient, manipulative system” aimed at “staying in power at the expense of the suffering of the people.”

Pope Francis also appealed for peace in Syria, now in the eighth year of what he described as an “apparently endless” civil war, and called for the provision of humanitarian aid and the return of refugees and displaced person to their homes.

The pope also called for an end to conflicts in Ukraine, Yemen and South Sudan, and lamented the “injustices and persecution” suffered by Christian minorities in the Middle East.


2. Judge rules that immigrants in U.S. custody have constitutional right to abortion. 

By Stephen Dinan, The Washington Times, April 2, 2018, Pg. A4

A federal judge ordered the Trump administration late Friday to grant pregnant illegal immigrant girls in U.S. custody unfettered access to abortions, ruling they have a constitutional right to the procedure.

Judge Tanya S. Chutkan, an Obama-era appointee to U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., who has been a thorn in the side of the Trump administration in several major cases, said the government has been putting too many hurdles in the path of the teen girls.

The government’s backers had warned of the dangers of abortion tourism, predicting teen illegal immigrants would come to the U.S. to take advantage of more relaxed abortion laws here than in their home countries.

But the judge rejected that warning and the government’s solution of suggesting the girls be deported to their home countries, where they would be free to take whatever steps they wanted.


3. Catholic Benefits Association wins suit filed in 2014 against HHS mandate. 

By Catholic News Service, April 1, 2018

A federal judge has ruled in favor of the Catholic Benefits Association and issued declaratory relief and a permanent injunction against a mandate requiring employers to provide coverage for contraception, even if they are opposed to such coverage on moral grounds.

U.S. District Court Judge David Russell’s ruling also eliminated $6.9 billion in fines that have accumulated against members of the association, based in Castle Rock.

“This is the tremendous win,” CEO Douglas G. Wilson said in a March 28 statement. “The first freedom in the Bill of Rights is the First Amendment right to freedom of religion. The court has rightly ruled that employers should not be forced to violate their beliefs and cover morally problematic elective and often low-cost choices that individuals may wish to make.”

The CBA represents more than 1,000 Catholic health care providers and was the largest single plaintiff challenging the mandate. It filed two federal lawsuits in 2014 on behalf of its members.


4. French bishops unite in declaration against assisted suicide. 

By Catholic News Agency, April 1, 2018

Amid a push to legalize physician-assisted suicide in parts of Europe, 118 French bishops signed a declaration this week promoting end-of-life care and explaining the Church’s opposition to suicide in all forms.

“Whatever our convictions, the end of life is a time we all will live and a concern we share. Everyone must be able to think as calmly as possible, avoiding the pitfalls of passions and pressures,” the bishops said in the document.

“We want, above all, to express our full compassion for our brothers and sisters at the ‘end of life,’ as the Church has always tried to do. They present themselves in their weaknesses…their existence is a call: what humanity, what attention, what kind of solicitude will we show to those who live among us?” the bishops continued.

The declaration, called “End of Life: Yes to the Urgency of Fraternity,” was signed by 118 French bishops on March 22. The document was published to promote compassion towards those nearing the end of their lives, and to oppose physician-assisted suicide legislation.


5. The Easter Effect and How It Changed the World: The first Christians were baffled by what they called ‘the Resurrection.’ Their struggle to understand it brought about astonishing success for their faith. 

By George Weigel, Mr. Weigel is distinguished senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, where he holds the William E. Simon Chair in Catholic Studies, The Wall Street Journal, March 31, 2018, Pg. C1

In the year 312, just before his victory at the Battle of the Milvian Bridge won him the undisputed leadership of the Roman Empire, Constantine the Great had a heavenly vision of Christian symbols. That augury led him, a year later, to end all legal sanctions on the public profession of Christianity.

Or so a pious tradition has it.

But there’s a more mundane explanation for Constantine’s decision: He was a politician who had shrewdly decided to join the winning side. By the early 4th century, Christians likely counted for between a quarter and a half of the population of the Roman Empire, and their exponential growth seemed likely to continue.

How did this happen? How did a ragtag band of nobodies from the far edges of the Mediterranean world become such a dominant force in just two and a half centuries?

There is no accounting for the rise of Christianity without weighing the revolutionary effect on those nobodies of what they called “the Resurrection”: their encounter with the one whom they embraced as the Risen Lord, whom they first knew as the itinerant Jewish rabbi, Jesus of Nazareth, and who died an agonizing and shameful death on a Roman cross outside Jerusalem. As N.T. Wright, one of the Anglosphere’s pre-eminent biblical scholars, makes clear, that first generation answered the question of why they were Christians with a straightforward answer: because Jesus was raised from the dead.

And one of the most striking things about the New Testament accounts of Easter, and what followed in the days immediately after Easter, is that the Gospel writers and editors carefully preserved the memory of the first Christians’ bafflement, skepticism and even fright about what had happened to their former teacher and what was happening to them.

This remarkable and deliberate recording of the first Christians’ incomprehension of what they insisted was the irreducible bottom line of their faith teaches us two things. First, it tells us that the early Christians were confident enough about what they called the Resurrection that (to borrow from Prof. Wright) they were prepared to say something like, “I know this sounds ridiculous, but it’s what happened.” And the second thing it tells us is that it took time for the first Christians to figure out what the events of Easter meant—not only for Jesus but for themselves. As they worked that out, their thinking about a lot of things changed profoundly, as Prof. Wright and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI help us to understand in their biblical commentaries.

The way they thought about time and history changed.

The way they thought about “resurrection” changed.

The way they thought about their responsibilities changed.

The way they thought about worship and its temporal rhythms changed.

However important the role of sociological factors in explaining why Christianity carried the day, there also was that curious and inexplicable joy that marked the early Christians, even as they were being marched off to execution. Was that joy simply delusion? Denial?

Perhaps it was the Easter Effect: the joy of people who had become convinced that they were witnesses to something inexplicable but nonetheless true. Something that gave a superabundance of meaning to life and that erased the fear of death. Something that had to be shared. Something with which to change the world.


6. Religious adoption orgs help kids. 

By Grazie Pozo Christie, Dr. Grazie Pozo Christie is a policy adviser for The Catholic Association, Detroit News, March 29, 2018, 10:54 PM

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is suing Michigan’s Department of Health and Human Services in an attempt to end the highly successful public-private partnership between the state and St. Vincent’s Catholic Charities. St. Vincent’s specializes in finding adoptive and foster homes for sibling groups and older children who are often harder to place. Now, they’ve been targeted by the ACLU because they place their precious charges only in homes with a married mother and father, the familial structure they believe is best for nurturing traumatized children.

The ACLU is representing a same-sex couple who could have adopted through any number of agencies which do not require prospective parents to be a married mother and father. Targeting St. Vincent’s is perhaps part of a strategic challenge to a Michigan law passed three years ago that specifically allows faith-based adoption agencies to place children only in families with a married mother and father. The impetus for passing this law was what had happened in Massachusetts: After the state made it illegal to only place children with traditionally married couples, Catholic adoption services across the state closed their doors.

Afraid of losing the important contributions of faith-based agencies and their unsurpassed ability to find homes for the hardest-to-place children, Michigan, Texas and several other states have passed laws allowing these agencies to stay open without compromising their religious principles.

In Michigan, faith-inspired adoption agencies like St. Vincent’s are extremely successful in matching older children, those with special needs, and sibling groups with loving families. Their standards are strict, as the children in their care are especially in need of love and stability. Even with their strict standards, or perhaps because of them, St. Vincent’s was able to place more foster children than seven out of eight other agencies in the area. They also provide the families with ongoing support and invaluable services that are hard to obtain elsewhere.

But none of this makes any difference to the ACLU. They want St. Vincent’s and other Christian and Catholic agencies out of the adoption business altogether, never mind that the result would be fewer opportunities for happiness for the children who need it most.

Clearly, the ACLU is looking at this issue strictly through the lens of adult feelings, blinded to the needs of children. Although same-sex couples might be turned down by an agency like St. Vincent’s, they have plenty of other options. Only about 30 percent of the agencies in the state are Christian or Catholic anyway, and when agencies like St. Vincent’s find themselves unable to offer their services to a same-sex couple, they are required by Michigan law to refer them to an agency that will. These couples won’t be discouraged from adopting; but the children served by agencies like St. Vincent’s, on the other hand, have far fewer options and much more at stake.

Having gone through the process of adoption with a daughter who is the joy of our family, it is hard for me to understand why the ACLU or anyone else would deliberately target the very people and agencies who are responsible for so much happiness in the lives of the children they place and the parents who bring them home.