1. Pope tells Egypt ahead of visit he comes as peace messenger.

By Associated Press, April 25, 2017, 7:15 AM

Pope Francis has told the Egyptian people he is coming to Cairo this week as a friend and a “messenger of peace.”

In a videotaped message released on Tuesday, Francis also says he hopes the pilgrimage will “be an embrace of consolation and of encouragement to all Christians in the Middle East.”

Twin bombings of Coptic Christian churches in Egypt on Palm Sunday this month killed 44 people.

Francis departs for Cairo on Friday and returns on Saturday.


2. A Court-Martial for a Bible Verse: The Supreme Court should hear out Monifa Sterling, a Marine punished over a line from Isaiah.

By S. Simcha Goldman, The Wall Street Journal, April 25, 2017, Pg. A17

Should Americans be prohibited from practicing their faith while serving in the military? The Supreme Court ought to take up Sterling v. U.S., which presents exactly that question. Around 2013, the plaintiff, Lance Cpl. Monifa Sterling, had displayed a Bible verse above her desk. It was a message from Isaiah: “No weapon formed against me shall prosper.” That small act of religious devotion mattered to her, but the military considered it inappropriate. Her superiors ordered her to take it down. When she refused, the quotation was removed by a superior. Lance Cpl. Sterling was court-martialed and discharged from the Marines, in part for her refusal to remove the biblical message.

In 1993 Congress enacted the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, or RFRA, to protect believers like me. The law guarantees that men and women in uniform can exercise their faith freely except in the rarest of cases: when the military can prove that a compelling interest is being pursued in as narrow a way as possible.

Applied properly, RFRA protects Lance Cpl. Sterling’s right to her small biblical display.


3. Pope Francis deploys his power over the past.

By John L. Allen Jr., Crux, April 25, 2017

When we think about papal primacy, the focus is generally on a pope’s power in the present: “Supreme, full, immediate and universal ordinary power in the Church, which he is always able to exercise freely,” in the language of the Code of Canon Law.

Yet a pontiff also enjoys a degree of power over the past as well, especially which parts of it are remembered and celebrated, and which controversial figures in Catholic history are rehabilitated and presented as role models. That’s the kind of power Pope Francis will be wielding when he goes to the small Italian town of Bozzolo on June 20 to pray at the tomb of Don Primo Mazzolari.

“Primate of Italy” is, of course, one of the pope’s titles, and in principle there’s nothing especially exceptional about a pope visiting an Italian town. The choice of Bozzolo and the tomb of Mazzolari, however, speaks volumes about the kind of Catholic Church that Pope Francis wants to lead.

He [Don Primo Mazzolari] was a classic product of the liberal Italian Catholicism that flourished in northern Italy in his day. He grew up with a Risorgimento-era faith in democracy, meaning the optimism born of the push for Italian unification in the late 19th century. That put him at odds from the beginning with more intransigent elements of Catholic life in Italy, which saw modernity as the enemy of the Papal States and therefore of the faith.

After the war, Mazzolari turned his energies to the cause of Church reform. He founded a newspaper called Adesso in 1949, advocating a special love for the poor, a simplification of Catholic life, empowerment of the laity, religious freedom, “dialogue with those who are far away,” non-violence, and a distinction between theological error and the concrete human beings who hold those errors – all topics that would eventually come to flower in the Second Vatican Council (1962-65), but which, at the time, marked him as something of a rebel.

Even though he’d probably come off as a solid conservative today, in his epoch Mazzolari was a progressive-minded reformer who was often viewed with suspicion by Church authorities, but whose vision more or less triumphed at Vatican II and is enjoying another springtime today.

When Pope Francis goes to Bozzolo on June 20, therefore, he’s doing far more than recalling the past. He’s also charting a course for the future, one informed and shaped by the legacy of Don Primo.


4. Pro-life question creates rift over Democratic direction.

By Bradford Richardson, The Washington Times, April 25, 2017, Pg. A1

Some higher-ups in the Democratic Party are taking a softer tone on abortion in a bid to win back the blue-collar voters who spurned Hillary Clinton at the ballot box, revealing a schism between the economic populists and cultural liberals over the future direction of the party.

The pro-choice wing of the party made considerable gains during the Obama years, amending the party platform to endorse taxpayer funding for abortion and dropping the last term in the “safe, legal and rare” triumvirate that became the Democratic line on abortion during the Bill Clinton presidency.

But that leftward tilt began to show signs of reversing last week.

Asked Sunday whether there’s room in the party for people who are pro-life, the staunchly pro-choice House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi responded, “Of course.”

Democrats nominated Heath Mello, a pro-life Catholic, to try to unseat incumbent Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert, a Republican. Mr. Mello, a former Nebraska lawmaker, co-sponsored the state’s 20-week abortion ban and other pro-life legislation and has come under fire from abortion advocates who say he doesn’t represent the party’s values.

While Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez initially threw his support behind Mr. Mello, he issued a stern statement after the politician’s pro-life views came to light, even saying that “pro-choice” is now an official party litmus test.

“I fundamentally disagree with Heath Mello’s personal beliefs about women’s reproductive health,” Mr. Perez said in the statement. “It is a promising step that Mello now shares the Democratic Party’s position on women’s fundamental rights.

“Every candidate who runs as a Democrat should do the same because every woman should be able to make her own health choices. Period,” he concluded.

Other Democrats have also come out against the idea that the party has room for people with pro-life views.

Senate Minority Whip Richard J. Durbin, Illinois Democrat, said the party is open to people who are personally pro-life, but not those who are willing to impose that view on others.


5. Spokesman: Tight security is ‘new normal’ as pope heads to Egypt.

By Carol Glatz, Catholic News Service, April 25, 2017

Despite the ongoing risk of terrorism, Pope Francis planned to travel to Egypt as a sign of being close to the people there, said Greg Burke, Vatican spokesman.

Heightened security is part of the “new normal” in many countries, but even in the wake of the Palm Sunday attacks in Egypt, it is the pope’s desire “to go ahead, to also be a sign of his closeness” to those affected by violence and all the people of Egypt, Burke told journalists April 24.


6. Let’s Compare Studies To See If Abortion Really Harms Women’s Mental Health.

By Grazie Pozo Christie, The Federalist, April 24, 2017, Opinion

Scientific studies have shown significantly increased risks of depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and suicidal behavior in post-abortive women, indicating the procedure may “free” a woman from an unwanted pregnancy, but not from the negative psychological consequences of her choice.

[Abortion] Activists are … promoting another study conclusion about the women “turned away.” The authors contend that women turned away from an abortion clinic because their babies were too far along for a first-trimester abortion were more anxious and depressed than those who got there in time to have the procedure.

So which is it? Are abortions psychologically damaging for women? Or does the real injury come from being “turned away” from a clinic? The scientific way to answer these questions is to compare the actual studies.

The finding that women suffer higher rates of anxiety, depression, and even suicidal ideation has been reproduced by academic researchers in numerous countries using various straightforward techniques. The largest study was published in 2011 in the prestigious British Journal of Psychiatry and was a meta-analysis involving a total of 877,181 women, of whom 163,831 had abortions.

Priscilla Coleman, PhD, the professor who conducted the study, controlled for variables such as a prior history of mental health problems and used appropriate comparison groups to come up with these numbers.

The “Turnaway Study” that purports to debunk Coleman’s findings consisted of phone interviews of women one week after having an abortion (or being turned away) and then every six months for five years. They were asked about “the intensity of distress felt in the past 7 days” and whether they “felt satisfied with life” and “felt high self-esteem.”

At the end of five years, only 558 women participated through the last interview and only the responses of those 558 women were used to draw conclusions. The authors tell us that most women did not suffer psychologically from having an abortion, and that the only ones who did suffer significantly were those who were initially turned away from a clinic due to advanced fetal age and had to go elsewhere, or continue their pregnancies.

[N]o scientist would call the “Turnaway Study” more accurate or scientific than Coleman’s. It’s simply not substantial or rigorous enough.

Pro-abortion activists who deny that a woman may experience significant guilt, sadness, and distress after the loss of a pregnancy are closing their eyes to scientific evidence, but also to human experience. Many of our sisters and friends are walking around wounded from an abortion they regret—sometimes one that happened years before. On the other hand, states that inform women of the psychological risks of abortion are using sound science to back them up.