1. ISIS Claims Easter Bombings. 

By Niharika Mandhana and Jon Emont, The Wall Street Journal, April 24, 2019, Pg. A1
Islamic State claimed responsibility for the Easter bombings that killed more than 300 people in Sri Lanka and posted a video that it said showed the suicide bombers, dressed in black robes, declaring their loyalty to the group.
“The executors of the attack that targeted citizens of coalition states and Christians in Sri Lanka two days ago were Islamic State fighters,” the group, also known as ISIS, said Tuesday, according to SITE, a security-consulting firm that tracks militant organizations.
2. Anti-Christian violence isn’t new. 

By John L. Allen Jr., The Washington Post, April 24, 2019, Pg. A23, Opinion
John L. Allen Jr. is the editor of the Catholic-news website Crux and the author of “The Global War on Christians.” 
“It is shocking that people who gathered to celebrate Easter together were consciously targeted in this malicious attack,” read a statement from German Chancellor Angela Merkel in response to the bombing of three Christian churches and three high-end hotels Sri Lanka that killed at least 321 people and injured hundreds more. 
 Yet the shocking thing about the carnage is that it is not shocking — and instead forms part of an ugly, predictable global pattern.
On major Christian feast days, somewhere in the world, some number of Christians are likely to be killed for no reason other than that they chose to attend religious services. Because Christmas and Easter are the holiest days on the Christian calendar, churches tend to be especially full, presenting ripe targets for anti-Christian hatred. 
3. In Sri Lanka’s ‘Little Rome,’ anger builds amid burials. 

By Pamela Constable, The Washington Post, April 24, 2019, Pg. A12
The Catholic community around St. Sebastian, known as “Little Rome,” buried many of its dead Tuesday, wrenched between sorrow, fear and anger as the death toll nationwide rose to 321 and the Islamic State claimed responsibility for the coordinated bombings at six churches and hotels across the country Sunday.
“We are really angry,” Rodrigo said. “We are angry at the people who did this, and we are angry at the officials who were given some warning of the attacks but did not inform anyone, not even the church leaders. If they had, we would not be here today, burying so many people.” 
In a tent outside the badly damaged church, senior church leaders including Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, the archbishop of Colombo, gathered for a memorial ceremony and blessing in the morning, attended by more than 500 white-robed priests. Thick lines of police guarded the streets and searched every visitor entering the church grounds and nearby cemetery. 
4. An unprecedented assault on abortion, Emboldened by a changing Supreme Court, antiabortion lawmakers go on the offensive. 

The Washington Post, April 24, 2019, Pg. A22, Editorial
Public support for abortion rights is at its highest since the Supreme Court’s landmark Roe v. Wade ruling, with 67 percent of voters saying abortion should be legal in “all” or “most” cases.” At the same time, though, a record number of bills that would severely restrict — even ban — abortion have been filed and in some cases enacted in state legislatures across the country. The dichotomy is due to how Brett M. Kavanaugh’s appointment to the Supreme Court has so emboldened the antiabortion movement that extreme — even flagrantly unconstitutional — measures are now seen as worthy of pursuit. 

Even if that doesn’t occur, the bills allow politicians to prove their virulent antiabortion bona fides. Never mind that many red states have imposed so many restrictions in the way of waiting periods, forced ultrasounds, curbs on insurance and TRAP (targeted regulation of abortion providers) laws that it is already extremely difficult for women to get access to the procedure. Never mind that many states devoting energy, time and money to enacting and defending these abortion bans suffer from terrible health outcomes for women. Georgia, for example, has the nation’s second-worst maternal mortality rate. In parts of Missouri, which is now considering one of the most extreme antiabortion bills, maternal mortality is 50 percent higher than in the rest of the country. But the term “pro-life” does not seem to encompass concern for those endangered lives. 
5. Catholics applaud Trump at annual prayer breakfast, Speakers condemn birth control mandate. 

By Christopher Vondracek, The Washington Times, April 24, 2019, Pg. A4
Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney said Tuesday he is proud to work for an administration that encourages staffers “to be very vocal about their faith” at the 15th annual National Catholic Prayer Breakfast.
Mr. Mulvaney championed President Trump’s success in including faith “into our policies,” appointing conservative justices and focusing attention to religious freedom around the world.

The breakfast’s 1,400 attendees also gave a standing ovation to the parents of Nick Sandmann, the Catholic high schooler from Kentucky who became the target of online fury over a viral video in January. Wearing a “Make America Great Again” baseball cap, Nick stood and smiled at an American Indian activist who was chanting and drumming on the National Mall.
6. Choice on Myanmar: Defend religious freedom now, or pay price later. 

By John L. Allen Jr., Editor, Crux, April 24, 2019
What Pope Francis on Easter Sunday referred to as the “cruel violence” in Sri Lanka, targeting churches and hotels and leaving more than 300 people dead, is obviously an affront to humanity, but it’s also the latest wake-up call about the urgency of defending religious freedom worldwide.
In comfortable Western settings such as the United States, battles over religious freedom can seem abstract and largely political, such as well-documented tensions under the Obama administration with the U.S. Catholic bishops over mandates for contraception coverage as part of health care reform.
Whatever one makes of such issues, they’re hardly matters of life and death.
Elsewhere, the situation is far more dire. Globally speaking, religious freedom isn’t just a matter of principle but an urgent security priority, because places that start eroding the rights of religious minorities almost always end up engulfed in violence that threatens stability well beyond their borders.
7. Pope’s swing to Macedonia/Bulgaria could pack surprising punch. 

By Elise Harris, Crux, April 24, 2019
When Pope Francis visits Macedonia and Bulgaria early next month, the trip might seem a throwaway since it won’t generate the international waves that his visits to Muslim-majority nations such as Morocco or the United Arab Emirates, or key Asian nations such as Japan, always promise to deliver.
Yet while the outing to Macedonia and Bulgaria, and his visit to Romania later this summer, might be overshadowed, Francis’s agenda in Eastern Europe not only has been a cornerstone of his papacy, but it also sheds light on the Vatican’s strategy with Orthodoxy since the years of St. John Paul II.
For the Vatican, that strategy is as much political as it is ecumenical.
8. The Ratzinger Diagnosis. 

By George Weigel, First Things, April 24, 2019
Published a week short of his 92nd birthday, Joseph Ratzinger’s essay on the epidemiology of the clergy sex-abuse crisis vividly illustrated his still-unparalleled capacity to incinerate the brain circuits of various Catholic progressives.  The origins of the text written by the Pope Emeritus remain unclear: Did he initially write it to assist the bishops who met in Rome this past February to address the abuse crisis? But whatever its history, the Ratzingerian diagnosis is well worth considering.  
In Benedict XVI’s view, the Catholic crisis of clerical sexual abuse was, in the main, an ecclesiastical by-product of the “sexual revolution”: a tsunami of cultural deconstruction that hit the Church in a moment of doctrinal and moral confusion, lax clerical discipline, poor seminary formation, and weak episcopal oversight, all of which combined to produce many of the scandals with which we’re painfully familiar today.  

And as I’ve noted before, “clericalism” is not a serious explanation for the sin and crime of clerical sexual abuse. Clericalism facilitates abuse, in that abusers prey on those who rightly hold the priesthood in esteem. But “clericalism” does not explain sexual predation, which has other, deeper causes and is in fact a global plague.   

9. Supreme Court to hear sexual orientation, gender identity employment cases. 

By Kevin Jones, Catholic News Agency, April 24, 2019, 3:30 AM
In a decision that could have potentially far-reaching consequences, the U.S. Supreme Court has said it will hear cases involving claims that sexual orientation and gender identity should be included under current federal protections barring sex discrimination.
One case involves a male employee who identifies as a woman and was fired from a funeral home for deciding to wear women’s clothes to work.
John Bursch, vice president of appellate advocacy at the religious freedom legal group Alliance Defending Freedom, argued that the court should uphold current federal law.

10. Bishop Critical of Nicaragua’s Ortega Leaves for Vatican. 

By The Associated Press, April 23, 2019
A Roman Catholic bishop who has been outspoken in his criticism of President Daniel Ortega over Nicaragua’s political standoff left the country Tuesday after being called to the Vatican indefinitely by Pope Francis.
Speaking at Managua’s international airport, where no members of the country’s Bishops’ Conference were on hand to bid a farewell, Managua auxiliary Bishop Silvio Báez told journalists and supporters that he was leaving with “my heart broken into pieces.”
11. US judge in Oregon to block new Trump abortion policy. 

By The Associated Press, April 23, 2019, 11:04 PM
A U.S. judge in Oregon said Tuesday he intends to at least partially block a rule change by President Donald Trump’s administration that could cut off federal funding for providers who refer patients for an abortion, though the scope of his decision remains to be seen.

McShane said he needs more time to decide whether he will issue a national injunction or a more limited one blocking the policy from taking effect. The judge said he’s reluctant to set national health care policy and would describe the scope of his injunction in a written opinion soon.

Under the new policy, health care providers that receive federal funding would be barred from referring patients for an abortion. Programs that receive the money would also have to be in a separate physical space from facilities where abortion is performed.
12. Catholic agency sues pro-LGBT attorney general over adoption rules. 

By Martin M. Barillas, Lifesite News, April 23, 2019, 8:51 PM
Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel is targeting a Catholic adoption agency because of its beliefs regarding marriage, according to a federal court filing.
The Becket Fund, a nonprofit law firm that defends religious liberty, is suing the state of Michigan and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on behalf of adoptive services contractor St. Vincent Catholic Charities and a married couple who have adopted five kids through the agency. In Buck v. Gordon, the Becket Fund asserts that faith-based adoption agencies should be able to operate according to their own principles.

In a Detroit News opinion piece, Andrea Picciotti-Bayer, writing for the Catholic Association Foundation, criticized Nessel for failing to enforce laws allowing faith-based adoption and foster care agencies to operate according to their religious beliefs.
13. The Cathedral: Mirror of the West, Then and Now. 

By Victor Davis Hanson, National Review Online, April 23, 2019, 6:30 AM
The recent fires at the medieval Catholic cathedral of Notre-Dame de Paris almost immediately were seen as a referendum on the West, even by those who are not Christians.
How at the supposed apex of Western technology, science, and affluence could a sudden inferno devour the spire, roof, and some of the interior icons of the nearly 800-year-old cathedral, itself perched on the bank of a river, and the survivor of centuries of desecrations, remodels, expansions, and repairs, when the arts of preservation, fire prevention and response, and engineering were supposedly backward by our standards?
Logically or not, many saw the fire as a curtain call for the West, or at least an eclipse of the ancient marriage of European Christian belief and scientific brilliance that together produced the most impressive and beautiful expressions of Western transcendence.
And now the second-most-revered church in the West smolders — something that neither French revolutionaries nor World War II bombers could accomplish.

Still, even for those who shrilly, amid the smoke and cinders, profess a dislike of Notre Dame, and of the French past, a sense of loss lingers. Is it the frustration over something that they know is larger than themselves, a monument that they silently concede that they could never build or even properly maintain, one that antedates them and will outlast them and all their transient ideas? In their nihilistic angst, do they catch a glimpse of something higher and recall that “Beauty is truth, truth beauty, —that is all / Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know”?