1. Pope: Church should pay mind to women’s rights.

By Chico Harlan, The Washington Post,  April 3, 2019, Pg. A9

In a major new document addressed to “all Christian young people,” Pope Francis calls for a church with “open doors” that can acknowledge past ills and be attentive to women seeking “greater justice and equality.”

The 33,000-word letter released Tuesday by the Vatican shows the pontiff’s hallmark advocacy for a version of Catholic teaching that is willing to evolve with the times. But the document does little to advocate for concrete steps that would improve women’s roles in the church, nor does it break ground on two other issues critical to young people — the church’s handling of sexual abuse and its teaching on homosexuality.

 Francis’s latest document said the church should look back on its history and “acknowledge a fair share of male authoritarianism, domination, various forms of enslavement, abuse and sexist violence.” But the document was not as drastic as it could have been, as Francis — in a seeming reference to the call for female priests — said the church could support women’s rights “while not agreeing with everything some feminist groups propose.”

The pope mentioned church teaching on sexuality only tangentially, writing that “sexual morality” tends to be a source of “incomprehension and alienation from the Church, inasmuch as she is viewed as a place of judgment and condemnation.” 

The encyclical, divided into nine chapters, offers a wide spectrum of commentary, at turns theological and colloquial, and urges young people to fight apathy, find Christian solutions to global problems and treat migrants with empathy. 


2. Title X cuts put squeeze on Planned Parenthood, Reforms part of effort to defund abortion.

By Valerie Richardson, The Washington Times, April 3, 2019, Pg. A1

The Department of Health and Human Services trimmed its funding to Planned Parenthood Federation of America affiliates last week in its 2019 Title X grants, redirecting millions of dollars in grants to other health care organizations, including for the first time the Obria Group, a pro-life pregnancy center based in Southern California.

Planned Parenthood affiliates were awarded $48.4 million over three years — a reduction of about $7 million from the previous round of multiyear grant awards — and four were zeroed out entirely, replaced by grants to state health departments in Hawaii, North Carolina, Ohio, Wisconsin and Virginia.

That drop represents little more than a rounding error for Planned Parenthood Federation of America, which reported $2.2 billion in revenue in its 2017-18 annual report, including $564 million in federal funding. But for pro-life advocates, the haircut sent the message that women seeking health care have plenty of choices.

 The rule also eliminates the requirement for grant recipients to provide patients with information about abortion, opening up the Title X grant process to health care organizations like the Obria Group.

The nonprofit affiliate, which will receive up to $5.1 million over three years, runs 21 health care centers and 11 mobile clinics in five states, providing pregnancy testing, prenatal care through delivery, HIV/STD testing, pap smears and other services, but does not offer contraception or abortion.

“With this grant, the administration has opened up a new avenue of health care choices for low-income and underserved women and their families in California,” said a statement by Obria Group founder and CEO Kathleen Eaton Bravo. Its donors include Catholic organizations such as the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Roman Catholic Bishops of Orange, and Knights of Columbus Charities, according to a 2015 tax document on GuideStar.

The number of U.S. abortions has declined steadily since the early 1980s, hitting in 2014 its lowest point since abortion was legalized nationwide in 1973, Guttmacher reported.


3. Alabama bill would outlaw abortion as lawmakers aim at Roe.

By Kim Chandler, The Associated Press, April 3, 2019

Alabama is the latest Republican-leaning state seeking to enact a strict abortion ban as conservatives take aim at the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion.

Energized by new conservatives on the Supreme Court, abortion opponents in multiple states hope to ignite new legal battles that could prompt the justices to revisit Roe v. Wade.

Alabama lawmakers introduced legislation Tuesday that would make performing an abortion at any stage of pregnancy a felony unless the mother’s health is in jeopardy. That comes after Kentucky and Mississippi approved bans on abortion once a fetal heartbeat is detected, which happens as soon as the sixth week of pregnancy. Other states, including Georgia and South Carolina, could enact similar bans.

A South Carolina House subcommittee passed a similar “heartbeat” bill on Tuesday.


4. LatAm church grapples with abuse, politics — and welcomes the Virgin.

By Inés San Martín, Crux, April 3, 2019

You can take the pope out of Latin America, but, as it turns out, it’s much harder to take the Latin America out of the pope.

Once again over recent days, there have been several noteworthy developments in and around the church in Latin America, at least some which involve history’s first pontiff from the region either directly or indirectly.

A week after being appointed to replace a prelate being investigated by civil prosecutors for allegedly covering up sexual abuse, the apostolic administrator (interim leader) of Santiago, Chile, is in Rome to meet with the pope.

Bishop Celestino Aós, a member of the Capuchin order, will remain in Rome for several days, spending time not just with Francis but several senior Vatican officials.

Meanwhile, the bishops of Nicaragua and Venezuela continue to speak out against their respective national governments, and Pope Francis has sent a personal message to Argentina accompanying a replica of the image of Our Lady of Fatima.


5. Pro-Lifers Welcome Renewed Born Alive Push, ‘We are hearing from more and more people demanding action’.

By Bill McMorris, Washington Free Beacon, April 3, 2019, 5:00 AM

Pro-life organizations are rallying around House Republicans as they push for a floor vote on legislation aimed at protecting abortion survivors.

On Tuesday, Republicans led by Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R., La.) launched a discharge petition to bring the Born Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act out of committee. The legislation has languished in the Judiciary Committee with little hope of getting a full hearing in the Democrat-controlled chamber. Scalise said the seldom-used legislative maneuver is necessary to respond to the “real grassroots movement” demanding legal protections for babies that survive abortions.

Jeanne Mancini, president of the March for Life, said lawmakers need to check radical abortion politics, as pro-choice politicians have moved away from the “safe, legal, and rare” mantra of the Clinton years and toward open endorsement of late-term abortion. Every major 2020 presidential candidate has endorsed New York’s policies and the House vote would be a way to get ” our elected officials’ positions on infanticide are on the record.”

Other pro-life activists have taken aim at Democratic leadership for blocking the bill. Maureen Ferguson, a senior advisor to the Catholic Association, said lawmakers should not be forced to use “unusual procedural tactics to demand a vote.” 

“It is shocking and inhumane for Speaker Pelosi to block a vote on this bill, which would protect babies who are accidentally born alive after an attempted abortion,” she said in a release. “We implore Members of the House to listen to the powerful voices of abortion survivors.”


6. Satanic symbols and shattered statues: Several Catholic churches have been under attack in France.

By Tom Heneghan, Religion News Service, April 2, 2019, 5:48 PM

Sometimes it’s a cross of human excrement smeared on a church wall, with stolen Communion hosts stuck at the four corners. Other times, a statue of the Virgin Mary lies shattered on the floor.

Now and then, a fire breaks out in a house of prayer.

Roman Catholic churches have increasingly come under attack in France, a country so long identified with Christianity that it used to be called “the eldest daughter of the church.”

But apart from official denunciations of individual attacks, Catholic leaders in France have refrained from dramatizing what they say is a worrying trend.

“We adopt a reasonable attitude. We do not want to develop a discourse of persecution. We do not wish to complain,” Archbishop Georges Pontier, head of the French bishops conference, said when asked about attacks on churches.

Other factors also influence the Catholic Church’s reaction. It doesn’t want to start a campaign that might encourage its critics, priests say. With the clerical sexual abuse scandal regularly in the headlines, they add, the bishops are also in a weak position to appeal for sympathy.


7. ‘Nobody Ever Said Abortion Was Pretty’.

By Alexandra DeSanctis, National Review Online, April 2, 2019, 10:53 AM

After a day on the job at Planned Parenthood, Abby Johnson greets her young daughter — who stares in concern and asks her mother why there’s blood spattered on her white sneakers. Abby replies that she helped a woman who had a nosebleed.

But her husband knows better. “Nobody ever said abortion was pretty,” she tells him defensively after their daughter has left the room.

That scene, which comes about halfway through the gut-wrenching film Unplanned, gets to the heart of what the movie accomplishes so well. Its resounding success, despite its low budget and controversial subject matter, stems from its willingness to expose the unmistakable reality of what takes place in every abortion procedure.

The film depicts abortion unflinchingly — earning it an R rating — and predictably has been dismissed by mainstream sources as “propaganda” and “an unabashed hit-job.” But unfortunately for critics, the character Abby Johnson is based on a real person of the same name, a former Planned Parenthood clinic director who now directs a pro-life organization.

There’s no question that the film demonizes Planned Parenthood and glorifies pro-lifers who pray on the sidewalk outside clinics. It’s unlikely that an abortion-rights supporter could sit through the entire movie, let alone come away convinced that abortion is immoral. But perhaps that isn’t the film’s goal. Perhaps merely depicting the grisly truth of abortion is enough.


8. GOP Whip Steve Scalise Urges Democrats to Sign Petition to Force Vote on Born-Alive Act.

By Dr. Susan Berry, Breitbart News, April 2, 2019, 4:43 PM

House Republican Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana held a press conference Tuesday to announce his intention to file a discharge petition that he hopes enough Democrats will sign in order to force a vote on a bill that would protect babies who survive abortion from infanticide.

Abortion survivors Melissa Ohden, Claire Culwell, and Gianna Jessen were present at the press conference, as was the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List’s (SBA List) national campaign chair Jill Stanek, and Dr. Christina Francis, board chair of the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians & Gynecologists (AAPLOG) and an associate scholar with the Charlotte Lozier Institute.

 Students for Life Action (SFL Action) also called on the House to protect children born during abortions by supporting the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act.

“A vote for the discharge petition is a vote to protect infants from infanticide,” said SFL Action President Kristan Hawkins. “Where a child is born should not determine whether they can be left to die.”

 “Only about half of states have laws on the books that mandate physicians provide medical care in cases of an infant born alive after at attempted abortion, and protections that do exist for these babies are at risk, as we have seen in New York, Rhode Island and other states,” said Jeanne Mancini, president of March for Life. “We applaud Representatives Scalise and Wagner for ensuring that our elected officials’ positions on infanticide are on the record.”

The Catholic Association’s senior policy advisor, Maureen Ferguson referred to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s blocking of a vote on the bill as “shocking” and “inhumane.”

“We implore members of the House to listen to the powerful voices of abortion survivors who are on Capitol Hill this week to support the bill,” she said in a statement. “Now adults, they have been speaking out to tell their stories.”


9. The High-Priced Spread, Revisited.

By George Weigel, First Things, April 3, 2019

Readers of a certain vintage (say, over sixty) will remember the Imperial Margarine TV ad that dismissed butter as “the high-priced spread.” That image came to mind rather unexpectedly when I was addressing the parents’ associations of two prestigious Catholic prep schools several years ago.

No, no one threw a margarine-smeared dinner roll at me during my talk. The Q&A, however, was full of contention when I said that a first-class liberal arts education at a college or university with a strong Catholic identity would prepare their sons and daughters for anything. Absolutely not, parents insisted. The kid had to get into Harvard, or Stanford, or Duke—or some other academic version of the high-priced spread—lest his or her life be ruined.

When I pointed out that undergraduates at so-called “elite” universities are frequently taught by graduate assistants rather than by senior faculty, the parents were unmoved. When I reminded them that few, if any, members of the philosophy departments at elite schools are convinced that there is something called “the truth,” rather than just “your truth” and “my truth,” they didn’t budge. When I cited the experience of my daughters, who had gone on to premier graduate schools and successful professional careers after attending a small, demanding Catholic liberal arts college, I was met with blank stares.  When I asked why they were willing to spend north of a quarter-million dollars to send their children into a decadent environment in which corruption (chemical, intellectual, sexual, political, or all-of-the-above) was a real and present danger, the mantra continued: The kid must attend an elite school to have any chance in life, because that’s where you begin to “network.”   

Fortunately, Catholic parents serious about real education and real formation have other options.

One of those options, the University of Dallas, just made an outstanding choice for its new president, selecting Dr. Thomas Hibbs, a first-class thinker who is also a committed Catholic, an able administrator, and a leader. Tom Hibbs joins a gallery of other Catholic college and university presidents—among others, John Garvey at the Catholic University of America, Michael McLean at Thomas Aquinas College, Stephen Minnis at Benedictine College, Timothy O’Donnell at Christendom College, Msgr. James Shea at the University of Mary, and James Towey at Ave Maria University—who are leading a renaissance in Catholic higher education. Their schools, and others, seek to prepare students for any post-undergraduate endeavor by giving them a firm grounding in the liberal arts, Catholic faith, the experience of Catholic community and public service. And they succeed.