1. Even the Pope’s ‘Supreme’ Power Has Its Limits, For all the passion over Pope Francis’ dealings with Beijing, pontiffs have always had to negotiate their authority. 

By Francis X. Rocca, The Wall Street Journal, April 30, 2018, Pg. A18

The prospect of Pope Francis agreeing to let China’s Communist government control his selection of the country’s Catholic bishops has stirred one of the biggest controversies of his reign, with critics denouncing the plan as a betrayal and a capitulation.

“I would make a cartoon showing the pope kneeling and offering the keys of the kingdom of heaven and saying, ‘Now, please recognize me as pope,’” Cardinal Joseph Zen, retired bishop of Hong Kong, the most prominent critic of the prospective deal, told an interviewer in March. “The advisers of the pope are giving him advice to renounce his authority.”

Certainly, the pope has no prerogative more consequential than choosing the world’s bishops. It is a right essential to his exercise of what the catechism of the Catholic church calls the pope’s “full, supreme, and universal power over the whole church.”

By the 20th century, devotion to the papacy was a defining element of Catholic identity to an extent that it had never been. The pope became the Catholic world’s most prominent model of holiness and a living embodiment of the church in the imagination of the faithful.

That role took on even greater salience in the age of television, when Pope John Paul II, a former actor, enhanced the papacy’s charisma with unprecedented mastery of mass media.

But the advent of the celebrity papacy brought liabilities for the office, as popularity became an inevitable criterion of a pontiff’s success.

Pope John Paul was succeeded by the introverted Pope Benedict XVI, a less appealing and accessible figure on television, whose reign was marked by a number of public-relations mishaps.

Even the telegenic Pope Francis, who has skillfully used news conferences and interviews to broadcast his agenda, has discovered the price of engagement with the media.


2. Law schools are right to prioritize religious freedom. 

By Andrea Picciotti-Bayer, Andrea Picciotti-Bayer is a legal adviser for Catholic Association, The Washington Examiner, April 30, 2018, 12:00 AM, Opinion

This week the Catholic University of America’s Columbus School of Law in Washington, D.C., opened a new Center for Religious Liberty . The fundamental right to religious freedom is recognized in our laws and grounded in the very dignity of humanity. Advocacy in defense of religious freedom guarantees America’s tradition of vibrant pluralism is preserved.

The center will be led by CUA law school professor and Becket Fund President Mark Rienzi.

Becket, named after the 12th-century bishop who was martyred by agents of England’s King Henry II, is a nonprofit, public interest, legal, and educational institute based in Washington, D.C. It is widely considered in legal circles as one of the country’s top religious liberties “law firms.”

Religious freedom is a vital and important human right that must be protected domestically and promoted internationally. As Rienzi noted in his opening remarks, addressing the legal questions related to religious liberty helps answer “how we deal with religious differences in a pluralistic society” and “how we learn to live together in light of our differences.”

Concern for the preservation of religious freedom is not just for the religious or religiously affiliated institutions. It is a concern for all Americans. Defending this freedom here at home and abroad preserves and promotes the rich pluralism that characterizes America.


3. Australian judge to rule on whether Cardinal stands trial. 

By Rod McGuirk, Associated Press, April 30, 2018

The most senior Vatican official to be charged in the Catholic Church sex abuse crisis will return to an Australian court on Tuesday to learn whether he must stand trial on charges that he sexually abused multiple victims decades ago.

Magistrate Belinda Wallington will rule in the Melbourne Magistrates Court on whether the prosecution’s case against Australian Cardinal George Pell is strong enough to warrant a trial by jury.

Lawyers for Australia’s highest-ranking Catholic argued during a four-week preliminary hearing in March that the accusations were untrue and should be dismissed. Pell has said through his lawyers that he will plead not guilty if the magistrate decides against dismissing the charges.


4. Against a Global Populist Tide, A Pope Is Remaking the Church. 

By Jsaon Horowitz, The New York Times, April 29, 2018, Pg. A1

Five years ago, Pope Francis was elected to be an agent of change within a church shaken by scandals and the historic resignation of Benedict XVI. He quickly became a global force in geopolitics, setting the agenda on climate change and care for migrants. World leaders wanted to be near him. Even non-Catholics adored him.

Today, Francis is increasingly embattled. The political climate has shifted abruptly around the world, empowering populists and nationalists who oppose much of what he stands for. Conservative forces arrayed against him within the Vatican have been emboldened, seeking to thwart him on multiple fronts.

Yet a close look at his record since becoming pope and the strong reactions he has engendered also shows that Francis continues to get his way in reorienting the church. And his supporters say that the backlash against his views has only made his voice more vital in the debate inside and outside the church over the issues he has chosen to highlight, like migrants, economic inequality and the environment.


5. The Alfie Evans case is straight out of a dystopia. 

By O. Carter Snead, O. Carter Snead is a professor of law, director of the Center for Ethics and Culture, and a concurrent professor of political science at the University of Notre Dame, CNN, April 29, 2018, 6:59 PM, Opinion

Little Alfie Evans has recently passed away, but the struggle over his treatment provoked a worldwide conflict over parental rights, how to care properly for the seriously disabled, and the appropriate role of the state in such intimate and vexed matters. What it revealed is that the law of the UK is in desperate need of revision to make room for the profoundly disabled and their loved ones who wish to care for them, despite the judgment of others that such lives of radical dependence and frailty are not worth living.

The heart of the problem is that, according to the UK courts’ interpretation of the Children Act of 1989, a life of permanent disability and dependency, whether long or short, is not worth living. The UK High Court “root(ed)” its opinion in the ethical guidance of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, which asserts that “it is no longer in the child’s best interests to continue (living)” in those cases “where the severity of the child’s condition is such that it is difficult or impossible for them to derive benefit from continued life.” Because of his disability, Alfie’s very life was deemed no longer beneficial to him. And therefore it was declared illegal to keep him alive.

This decision reflects a profound, indeed lethal intolerance of dependence and disability. But it is even worse than that. Just as in the Charlie Gard case, the courts here effectively terminated the rights of Alfie’s parents, forbidding them to seek transfer to other facilities that wished to care for Alfie.

What began with a hospital’s deadly policy against a child with apparently permanent disabilities ended with a shocking totalitarian intervention by the state, annihilating his parents’ rights in order to ensure Alfie’s demise.

In the wake of this most recent tragic case, let us hope that the UK government changes its laws to give parents the freedom to care for their disabled children and, most importantly, turns away from a perfectionist conception of “best interests” so hostile to imperfection, disability, and dependence that it mandates the death of those who are not suffering nor imminently dying simply because their lives have been judged by able-bodied strangers to be no longer worth living.


6. Firing of House Chaplain Causes Uproar on Capitol Hill. 

By Elizabeth Dias and Sheryl Gay Stolberg, The New York Times April 28, 2018, Pg. A1

Speaker Paul D. Ryan’s abrupt decision to dismiss the House chaplain triggered an uproar on Friday over religion, pitting Republican against Republican and offering Democrats a political opportunity in a year already moving their way.

Mr. Ryan moved quietly two weeks ago to remove the chaplain, the Rev. Patrick J. Conroy — so quietly that some lawmakers assumed the Catholic priest was retiring. But in an interview on Thursday with The New York Times, Father Conroy said he was blindsided when Mr. Ryan asked him to resign, and suggested politics — specifically a prayer he gave in November when Congress was debating a tax overhaul — may have been a factor in the speaker’s decision.

On Friday, the Catholic Association, a more conservative group, came to Mr. Ryan’s defense. Maureen Ferguson, a senior policy adviser with the organization, called criticism surrounding his decision to ask Father Conroy to step down “downright absurd.”

“Anyone who knows Speaker Ryan knows he is a devoted Catholic,” she said. “Much ado is being made about nothing.”


7. Alfie Evans Dies: ‘My Gladiator Lay Down His Shield and Gained His Wings’. 

By Patrick Goodenough, CNS News, April 28, 2018, 10:39 PM

The severely-ill little English boy who touched millions of hearts around the world has died, after his parents lost a legal battle to take him to a hospital in Rome for further treatment.

Twenty three-month-old Alfie Evans survived for five days after being taken off life support last Monday night. Court rulings barring his parents from taking him abroad and allowing Liverpool’s Alder Hey hospital to withdraw his ventilation drew widespread concern and condemnation.

“The death of Alfie Evans is devastating news,” said Ashley McGuire, senior fellow with The Catholic Association. “While his life was short, Alfie brought millions of people together in support of his precious life and his parents’ brave struggle on his behalf.”


8. British Child at Center of Legal Battle Over Life Support Dies, Alfie Evans, who had a degenerative neurological condition, had his life support turned off despite opposition from his parents. 

By Jenny Gross and Francis X. Rocca, The Wall Street Journal, April 28, 2018, 5:46 AM

A gravely ill toddler at the center of an international controversy over end-of-life care and parental rights died Saturday at a hospital in northwest England, according to his father.

“My gladiator lay down his shield and gained his wings at 02:30,” Alfie Evans’s father, Thomas, wrote on Facebook. “Absolutely heartbroken.”

The case was the latest to raise a web of legal and ethical questions about the state’s role in disputes between hospitals and family members over treatment, and pit U.K. courts against Italian authorities and the Vatican.

In his February ruling that treatment should be withdrawn, the judge wrote that the Evans family’s Catholic faith should be considered as a factor in determining the child’s best interests, and he included an extensive quotation from a speech by Pope Francis distinguishing euthanasia from the discontinuance of overzealous care.

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, causing death by act or omission to eliminate suffering is murder, but “discontinuing medical procedures that are burdensome, dangerous extraordinary or disproportionate to the expected outcome can be legitimate.”

Pope Francis met with Alfie’s father at the Vatican on April 18 and made several public statements on the case. On Monday, the pope tweeted an appeal that the “suffering of [the child’s] parents may be heard and that their desire to seek new forms of treatment may be granted.”

The Catholic bishops of England and Wales distanced themselves from the Vatican hospital’s offer of treatment and praised the Liverpool hospital, stating that “public criticism of their work is unfounded.” On Wednesday, the Catholic Archbishop of Liverpool told Britain’s Tablet magazine that doctors at the hospital were “doing everything that is humanly possible” for the child.


9. Chile victims of clergy sex abuse praise talks with pope. 

By Frances D’Emilio, Associated Press, April 29, 2018, 1:54 PM

Men who were sexually abused by a priest in Chile described the private talks they’ve had so far with Pope Francis at the Vatican as very helpful and respectful Sunday.

James Hamilton, one of three clergy abuse survivors the pope invited to Italy after he discounted some of their assertions, tweeted that his more than two hours of conversation with Francis were “enormously constructive.”

A second, Jose Andres Murillo, posted on Twitter that he stressed the importance of understanding sexual abuse as “abuse of power” during his time with the pope. The third man, Juan Carlos Cruz, was due to meet with Francis on Sunday.


10. Vatican aims to keep charities, donations clean with new law. 

By Nicole Winfield, Associated Press, April 27, 2018

The Vatican’s financial watchdog has taken on responsibility for evaluating suspicious donations to Vatican-based charities and foundations, an assignment that marks a new phase of Pope Francis’ financial reforms.

An annual report released by the Financial Information Authority on Fridayshowed a progressive consolidation of efforts to bring the Vatican into compliance with international norms for fighting money laundering and terrorist financing.

For its dual job of supervising the Vatican bank and serving as the Holy See’s financial intelligence unit, the AIF, as the agency is known, collects and evaluates reports of suspicious transactions. In recent years, the bulk of those reports have come from the bank, the Institute for Religious Works, but also other Holy See offices.

In its annual report, the agency noted a law that took effect in November requiring all Vatican-registered charities and foundations to report suspicious transactions to AIF or face sanctions of up to 20,000 euros. That law was a response to a recommendation from the Council of Europe’s Moneyval process, which the Vatican joined in a bid to shed its image as a loosely regulated offshore tax haven.


11. The Toddler and the Pontiff, A long-shot hope. 

By Sohrab Ahmari, Commentary Magazine, April 27, 2018, Opinion

But Alfie lives. His defiance of Britain’s administrative elite bears a profound witness to the essential mystery of life and death—and the failure of secularism and scientism to bring that mystery under man’s full dominion.

None of this would have come about, however, were it not for Pope Francis.

From the beginning, the pope has accompanied Alfie and his parents in his simple but firm pastoral way. He granted Tom an audience earlier this month and tweeted in support of his and Kate’s desire to have Alfie treated elsewhere. Taking their cue from the pope, Italian officials conferred citizenship on Alfie on Monday and launched a diplomatic push to rescue him. But Francis didn’t stop there. He also reportedly prepared a military air ambulance to evacuate Alfie to Bambino Gesù, the Vatican pediatric hospital.

The pope’s efforts have so far failed to move U.K. officials. Yet Francis has already moved the world with his resolute stance on the inherent dignity of all life, united Catholics hitherto bitterly divided on doctrinal matters, and revealed the Church’s immense power to inspire activism. This is Francis’ “be not afraid” moment—reminiscent of John Paul’s pilgrimage to Poland in 1979, which set Soviet Communism on the path toward the dustbin of history. Only, now Francis’ “be not afraid” is directed at people of faith living under a wretched culture of death that would condemn a 23-month-old to slow asphyxiation and starvation.

With every minute that passes, the odds of a successful rescue get longer. But there is one long-shot hope left. Imagine for a moment if Pope Francis decided to fly to Liverpool for a pastoral visit to Alfie and his parents. Who would dare stop him? Now imagine if, at the end of the visit, the pope insisted that Alfie is coming to Rome with him. Again, who would dare stop him? Would the police officers posted outside Alfie’s room and at the entrance to the hospital dare block his way? Would the security forces dare arrest the successor of Peter? Now imagine the impact of such a scene on the world’s conscience. A pontiff and a toddler could change the course of Western history.

Go to Liverpool, your holiness!


12. Is There a Secret Plan to Legalize Sex Trafficking of Minors? Feminist Activist Tells All. 

By Brandon Showalter, The Christian Post, April 26, 2018, 7:15 AM

If you had told radical feminist and political activist Natasha Chart five years ago that she would be fired from her advocacy job for objecting to the prostitution of minors, she wouldn’t have believed that anyone could be fired for that reason.

Yet Chart, 43, who hails from New York and is the board chair of the radical feminist group Women’s Liberation Front, was terminated in August 2015 from her political advocacy job for doing exactly that.

She opted to speak with The Christian Post, she said, “because I have been hoping that someone could be bothered to care that there is a significant and influential portion of the left-aligned and mainstream human rights activist community that both believes that ‘youth sex work’ should be made legal, and that they have the clout to get people fired from political and media jobs for making concerns about that public.”

But no one is served when trusted civil society institutions utilize their clout, on what is most likely an unsuspecting membership, to quietly further a “pimping agenda,” she went on to say, an agenda its promoters know better than to broadcast publicly.

“My friends and colleagues over several years know this happened. Hundreds of feminist journalists and academics in the United States know this happened. They didn’t all agree, but none of them said one public word in my defense. None of the women associated with mainstream feminist media or scholarship spoke up.”

“If they could be intimidated into overlooking this, what’s next? How long will it be the case that an anti-trafficking bill can be supported in the Senate on a 97–2 vote, where the dissent came in from the tech industry, on technicalities?” she asked, referencing the recently signed Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act.

Chart explains that if women want to work in left-wing politics these days, no matter the issue, women have to be “neutral, quiet or supportive” of the sex trade and gender identity, mainly because it’s men who are funding the projects. When feminists dare to build coalitions with people whom they usually disagree, like social conservatives, they will be infantilized and derided, she said, pointing to a September 2016 Daily Beast column that dismissed the overlap some radical feminists share with Christian conservatives on issues like transgender ideology, surrogacy, pornography, and prostitution.

“And if you’d asked me a few years ago if anyone would be arguing that women don’t really exist and can’t be defined [as a category of people], I would not have understood what you were talking about,” Chart added. “If you’d asked me a few years ago if I thought that the minor sex trade was a good idea, I would have said, ‘Of course not, nobody supports that, right?’

At the very least, on these two fundamental issues, women exist and children should not be sold for sex. I can’t even fathom that there are people who have decided that these things are up for discussion. It’s bizarre to me and unsettling.”

Left-wing proponents of legitimizing the sex trade are not coming at this from a feminist tack, but an “oppositional, rebellious son perspective,” she asserts, and “women have been bullied into accepting this anything goes mentality as feminism because you get criticized as a prude if you don’t.”

She concluded: “And it’s highly offensive to me that a lot of women who are carrying forward the #MeToo movement are being politically harassed out of being able to speak about a full range of feminist concerns. They’ve brought up the larger idea of workplace harassment where women are punished for speaking out, where they are coerced and pressured because they said ‘no’ to a man who wanted to put his hands all over them. But women are not allowed to speak out against the men who have decided that they are going to use feminism as a vehicle to finally get respectability for the sex industry.”