1. State laws tighten on abortion clinics: Court fights keep last doors open. 

By Alex Swoyer, The Washington Times, April 23, 2018, Pg. A1

For 38 years, EMW Women’s Surgical Center has been performing abortions in Louisville, Kentucky.

It’s now the last abortion provider in the state, and it’s fighting to keep its doors open and to prevent Kentucky from becoming the first state in the nation without an abortion option.

The administration of Gov. Matt Bevin, a Republican, said last year that EMW doesn’t have valid transfer agreements with an ambulance service and hospital. State law requires transfer agreements in case a procedure goes wrong.

A judge has delayed the clinic’s closure.

In Mississippi, Jackson Women’s Health Organization is the only abortion clinic still open. It, too, is battling a series of state laws that it says makes it difficult to give women a place where they can terminate their pregnancies.

West Virginia, South Dakota and North Dakota are other states with just a single abortion clinic.

The Supreme Court struck back in 2016 by ruling against a Texas law that required each physician providing abortions to have admitting privileges at a hospital not more than 30 miles away and required each clinic to have wide hallways and follow other building guidelines for surgical centers.

The number of abortion facilities in Texas would have decreased from roughly 40 to 20 clinics if the laws had been upheld.

The 5-3 decision said states can’t enforce regulations that, when put together, create undue burdens on women who seek abortions.

But the ruling didn’t stop Kentucky and Mississippi from enacting a number of pro-life measures.

Arkansas may also join the list of states with one provider, depending on the outcome of a lawsuit challenging the state’s ban on medication abortions. Three clinics are operating in Arkansas, but only one provides surgical abortions. The other two strictly provide medication abortions, according to CQ magazine.


2. Catholic Voices succeeds by reframing arguments rather than retorting.

By John L. Allen Jr., Crux, April 22, 2018

While there are undoubtedly many ways to measure the greatness of an idea, here’s one: When it outlives its original application, and becomes a permanent part of a much larger reality.

That, in short, is the story of Catholic Voices, which is undoubtedly the most successful Catholic communications initiative of the last decade – and a nominee, at least, for being one of the most effective of all time.

The project was independent of officialdom, though it’s never been hostile to the Church’s official leadership. For the most part, actually, those leaders have embraced it heartily.

Today, there are more than 20 Catholic Voices groups in Europe, North and South America and Australia. The group’s philosophy, and its secret to success, can be simply stated: In the face of incomprehension and even hostility from the media, don’t get angry, reframe the conversation. The idea is to avoid defensiveness, and to identify with the values underlying the hostility (which often, even in distorted form, ultimately stem from Christianity.)

On Friday night, Crux’s team in Rome this week – which normally consists of Vatican correspondent Inés San Martín and faith and culture correspondent Claire Giangravè, buoyed this week by me and national correspondent Chris White – had the chance to drop in on a gathering of Catholic Voices personnel from more than 15 countries, taking place in the Eternal City.

In essence, I made a simple point: You people are doing amazing work in projecting a credible and attractive voice for the Church in the public square, and that’s no easy feat.

I also told the Catholic Voices crowd that in many ways, there’s a genetic link between their group and Crux. That’s not just because I’m old friends of both Valero and Ivereigh, and was there at the beginning eight years ago, and it’s not just because White, our stellar national correspondent, is a former staffer for Catholic Voices USA.

In any event, I told them I’m as much an admirer of Catholic Voices today as eight years ago. If you don’t know Catholic Voices, check them out, because there really is much to admire.


3. Laywomen among new appointees to Vatican’s doctrine office. 

By Hannah Brockhaus, Catholic News Agency, April 22, 2018

On Saturday, Pope Francis named five new consultors of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, including three female academics and two priests.

The women are Dr. Linda Ghisoni, professor of canon law at the Pontifical Gregorian University; Dr. Michelina Tenance, professor of theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome; and Dr. Laetitia Calmeyn, lecturer of theology at the Collège des Bernardins in Paris.

The other two new consultors are Father Sergio Paolo Bonanni, professor of theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University, and Claretian Father Manuel Jesús Arroba Conde, dean of the Institutum Utriusque Iuris at the Pontifical Lateran University.

While a Vatican spokesman was unable to confirm whether laywomen have previously served as consultors, he did confirm for CNA that women have served as staff members at the dicastery.

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is the Vatican department responsible for protecting and promulgating the doctrine of the Catholic Church. 


4. Pope ordains 16 priests, tells them always ‘be merciful’. 

By Associated Press, April 22, 2018, 4:53 AM

Pope Francis is reminding priests to always be merciful, as he ordained 16 men in a ceremony in St. Peter’s Basilica.

In remarks Sunday to the new priests from several nations, Francis said: “Please, don’t tire of being merciful” since they themselves sin.

Encouragement toward mercy and selfless service is a hallmark of Francis’ 5-year-old papacy.


5. U.S. Human Rights Report Decries Forces of Instability. 

By Felicia Schwartz, The Wall Street Journal, April 21, 2018, Pg. A6

The Trump administration singled out Russia, China, Iran and North Korea in an annual State Department assessment of global human rights, calling these nations “forces of instability” because of their frequent rights abuses.

Acting Secretary of State John Sullivan also criticized Syria, Turkey, Myanmar and Venezuela in presenting the report Friday.

The assessment for 2017 is the first such document addressing events during President Donald Trump’s time in office.

In a preface, Mr. Sullivan said that “corrupt and weak governance threatens global stability and U.S. interests.”

“States that restrict freedoms of expression and peaceful assembly; that allow and commit violence against members of religious, ethnic, and other minority groups; or that undermine the fundamental dignity of persons are morally reprehensible and undermine our interests,” he wrote.

In remarks Friday, Mr. Sullivan took particular aim at Russia for quashing dissent and civil society “even while it invades its neighbors and undermines the sovereignty of Western nations.”

Despite warm ties between China’s president, Xi Jinping, and Mr. Trump, Mr. Sullivan accused China of spreading the worst practices of its authoritarian system, “including restrictions on activists, civil society, freedom of expression and the use of arbitrary surveillance.”

He faulted Turkey, a North Atlantic Treaty Organization ally, for the detention of journalists and academics, and said mass jailings after a failed 2016 coup attempt “undermine the rule of law.”


6. Chicago church leaders unite to oppose massive tax threat to religious groups. 

By Catholic News Agency, April 21, 2018

Religious leaders in Chicago are fighting to end a lawsuit filed by an atheist group that would impose upwards of $1 billion in taxes for churches around the nation.

The lawsuit, Gaylor v. Mnuchin, was filed by the Freedom From Religion Foundation. The case aims to end the parsonage allowance, a federal tax provision used by religious establishments such as churches, mosques, and synagogues, which offers a housing allowance to help religious leaders live in the communities they serve.

Chris Butler, pastor of the south-side Chicago Embassy Church requested April 19 that a federal appeals court throw out the lawsuit on discriminatory grounds. Butler is joined by other ecclesial communities and Churches, including leaders from the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia’s Diocese of Chicago and Mid-America and Holy Cross Anglican Church.

According to the Becket Fund, which has been involved in the case since January 2017, ending the parsonage allowance would “discriminate against religious groups by treating them worse than many other secular employees who receive similar tax treatment,” and would also “harm poor communities by diverting scarce resources away from essential ministries.”