1. Duncan gets confirmed to seat on 5th Circuit of Appeals, Critics question views on abortion. 

By Alex Swoyer, The Washington Times, April 25, 2018, Pg. A3

A lawyer who led the fight against Obamacare’s contraceptive mandate, eventually winning the Hobby Lobby case before the Supreme Court, won confirmation by the Senate on Tuesday to a federal appeals court.

Senators voted 50-47 to confirm Stuart Kyle Duncan to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which covers Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi. Only one Democrat, Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, broke with his party to support Mr. Duncan.

His nomination has been cheered by the conservative Judicial Crisis Network, which successfully backed Supreme Court Justice Neil M. Gorsuch’s confirmation, among several of President Trump’s other federal bench picks.

“It is sad that only one Democrat was willing to break ranks and vote for such an impressive nominee; a sign of how extreme Dems have become, and another reason we need more conservative Republicans in the Senate,” said Carrie Severino, chief counsel for the Judicial Crisis Network.


2. Ruling to Bar Funds to Fix Churches May Renew Thorny Debate. 

By Nick Corasaniti, The New York Times, April 25, 2018, Pg. A20

The apex of the slate roof of the historic chapel of the Presbyterian Church in Morristown peeks over the trees lining the central green here, its chips and cracks visible from the ground. In need of repair, the church did what many other houses of worship in the area have done — turned for help to the county, which gave it more than $260,000 in 2013.

Since 2012, Morris County has provided more than $4.6 million to 12 churches in the form of historic preservation grants, a readily available source of money to fix facades, stained glass windows and aging roofs.

But a unanimous decision by the New Jersey Supreme Court found that public money could no longer be used by churches, citing a clause in the State Constitution expressly forbidding it, a decision that could reverberate beyond New Jersey and reignite a national debate over the separation of church and state.

The New Jersey decision last week came less than a year after the United States Supreme Court issued a landmark ruling in a case from Missouri that states must sometimes provide aid to religious groups even when their state constitutions prohibit the use of public funds for the benefit of houses of worship.

The New Jersey decision raises the possibility that the United States Supreme Court could clarify and even expand how taxpayer money can be spent on religious groups.


3. Pope Calls for ‘Transparent Dialogue’ for Peace at Korea Summit. 

By Reuters, April 25, 2018, 5:51 AM

Pope Francis called for “transparent dialogue” between the two Koreas on Wednesday, urging leaders at the first inter-Korean summit in more than a decade to act with courage to foster regional and world peace.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un are due to meet in the border village of Panmunjom on Friday.

“This encounter can be a propitious occasion to start a transparent dialogue and a concrete path to reconciliation and renewed fraternity aimed at guaranteeing peace on the Korean peninsula and in the whole world,” the pope said at his weekly general audience before tens of thousands of people.

Previous summits between the two sides were held in 2000 and 2007.


4. Pope’s kitchen cabinet right now is a distracted bunch. 

By John L. Allen Jr., Editor, Crux, April 25, 2018

Francis was elected in March 2013 partly on a mandate to clean up a perceived governance mess in the Vatican, and shortly afterwards he created a new body to advise him on reform – a council of eight cardinal advisers from around the world, swiftly dubbed the “C8.” After the pontiff added his new Secretary of State, Italian Cardinal Pietro Parolin, it became the “C9.”

In reality, however, one has to imagine those are hardly the only topics to come up, because the fact of the matter is that at least five of Francis’s cardinal advisers came into this week’s meeting with compelling reasons for feeling distracted.

One of those cardinals wasn’t even in the room, and hasn’t been for a while: Australian Cardinal George Pell, who’s on a leave of absence as head of the new Secretariat for the Economy as he fights off charges of “historic sexual offenses” in his native country.

An Australian magistrate is expected to rule next week, on May 1, whether the case against Pell will proceed to trial. Depending on what happens, Pell will either be significantly delayed before he attends his next C9 meeting, or he may never make it back at all.

Meanwhile, 84-year-old Cardinal Francisco Erràzuriz Ossa of Chile no doubt has a looming May 14-17 summit between his country’s 32 bishops and Francis on his mind. The session comes amid arguably the worst sexual abuse scandal ever to hit a Latin American nation, which pivots on accusations that certain members of the Chilean hierarchy either turned a blind eye, or deliberately concealed crimes committed by the country’s most notorious abuser priest, Father Fernando Karadima.

Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Germany, meanwhile, is currently trying to put out fires related to a plan by the German bishops to allow the Protestant spouses of Catholics to receive Communion at a Catholic Mass “in individual cases” and “under certain conditions,” provided that they “affirm the Catholic faith in the Eucharist.”

Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston is not presently engulfed in any scandal or doctrinal controversy himself, but as the president of the Vatican’s Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, he’s indirectly drawn into at least thinking about every abuse-related challenge facing the Church today.

He’s concerned about helping the new members of the commission get their legs under them, having just wrapped up the first meeting since new members were appointed, and also figuring out a new mechanism to ensure the commission hears the voices of victims even when they’re not members.

At the same time, O’Malley likely is taking a special interest in the drama in Chile, since his own critical reaction to the pope’s remarks accusing victims of “calumny” in January seems to have helped jar something loose in Francis’s thinking, and because it was O’Malley who delivered a letter from the Chilean victims to Francis.

Finally, the coordinator of the C9, Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga of Honduras, is also facing his own distractions these days, including accusations from former seminarians of sexual misconduct against his own auxiliary bishop, Juan José Pineda Fasquelle of the Archdiocese of Tegucigalpa.

Perhaps members of the C9, despite it all, will be able to bring the necessary focus to the problem of working out a meaningful reform strategy, one able to dispel the growing suspicion among many observers that things are stalled.


5. A Miracle in Liverpool, A witness against the culture of death. 

By Sohrab Ahmari, Commentary Magazine, April 24, 2018

Alfie Evans was supposed to die. On Monday evening, doctors at Alder Hey hospital in Liverpool, England, removed the 23-month-old toddler’s respirator following an effective death sentence handed down by Britain’s High Court of Justice. The court ruled that “continued ventilatory support is no longer in Alfie’s best interest” and prohibited his parents from flying their baby to Rome’s Bambino Gesù hospital for additional treatment at the Italian government’s expense. An international outcry led by Pope Francis failed to move British authorities.

The most mother and father could offer their son was skin-to-skin contact—and love. He was, as I say, supposed to die. But he didn’t. Alfie continued to breathe independently for five, ten, fifteen hours. As I write, he has been going strong for more than 21 hours. 

The Italian government granted Alfie citizenship on Monday, and the following day Italian diplomats sought to evacuate him by military air ambulance from his death chamber at Alder Hey. That final legal hope was dashed Tuesdayevening, after the court dismissed the Italian appeal. It is unlikely that Alfie will survive for much longer. 

The medical complexities of the case, played up by the court and its defenders, serve to obscure this basic moral principle. No one is asking the U.K. National Health Service to expend extraordinary resources to keep Alfie alive. All Alfie’s parents ask is to be allowed to seek treatment elsewhere—again, at Italian expense—even if such treatment proves to be futile in the end. The same principle was at stake in last year’s Charlie Gard case. Once more, British courts have distorted the relevant legal standard—“the best interests of the child”—to usurp parents’ natural rights.

Nor is it possible to rule out the baleful influence of the European culture of death in Alfie’s case. …. Justice Hayden’s decision is full of references to dying with “dignity,” a favorite euphemism of the euthanasia movement. In reality, “death with dignity” in Alfie’s case involves withholding oxygen, hydration, and nutrition from a toddler and restraining his parents as they try to do what comes naturally to all parents.

Meanwhile, Alfie keeps fighting. His bed is festooned with several rosaries, I am told, including one sent directly from Rome by the pope.


6. Chilean clerical sex abuse victim urges pope to fire ‘toxic’ bishops. 

By Philip Pullella, Reuters, April 24, 2018, 2:29 PM

A Chilean man who was sexually abused by a priest as a boy will urge Pope Francis to sack “toxic” bishops who covered up the assaults, he said on Tuesday ahead of a face-to-face meeting with the leader of the Catholic Church.

Cruz said he hoped the pope would take decisive action in order to “send a message to the world that Chile is an example of what’s going to happen all over if this culture of abuse and cover up continues”.

He said he was confident that some good would come out of his meeting with the pope. Francis is due to have extended meetings with each of the three men individually over the weekend and then together on Monday.