1. An Anti-Catholic Pol’s 21st-Century Legacy: Missouri’s Blaine Amendment is about to be put to the test at the Supreme Court.

By Michael A. Helfand, The Wall Street Journal, April 7, 2017, Pg. A15

Later this month the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in Trinity Lutheran v. Comer, a case about how far government can go to keep church and state separate. The high court will consider how to determine whether a law is discriminatory against religious minorities. It will also weigh whether government can withhold funding for the safety and security of religious institutions. Most important, this case presents a rare opportunity to undo a legacy of antireligious bigotry in many state constitutions.

The plaintiff, Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Mo., operates a preschool with a playground on its premises. In 2012 the church applied for a state grant that provides funds to make play areas safer for children. It qualified for the grant but was denied the money because the Missouri Constitution prohibits public funds from being given to a religious institution.

Missouri’s law is as unyielding as it is expansive. It demands that “no money shall ever be taken” from the state and granted “directly or indirectly” to any religious institution. If, for example, Missouri provided financial support to institutions affected by a natural disaster, it would have to exclude religious ones.

This provision has roots in the 19th century. Former U.S. House Speaker James Blaine promoted a federal constitutional amendment in the 1870s that would have banned government funds from being spent on religious education. When that initiative failed, states took it up, inserting similar laws into their constitutions. Missouri was only one of them.

As Justice Clarence Thomas noted in Mitchell v. Helms (2000), Blaine’s advocacy was motivated by anti-Catholic sentiment.

Mr. Helfand is an associate professor at Pepperdine University School of Law.


2. Congo’s bishops: Catholics in east face new wave of violence. 

By Catholic News Service, April 7, 2017

Congo’s bishops said Catholics are facing a new wave of violence following the collapse of a church mediation plan, and in some places church leaders have fled to the forest.

In late March, the bishops abandoned attempts to arrange a government-opposition power-sharing settlement and, within days, violence erupted in eastern Congo.

“The militias are continuing their macabre operations — each passing day sees new killings and burning of religious buildings,” said a statement on the bishops’ conference website.

Bishop Sebastien Muyengo Mulombe of Uvira said the situation in Kivu had been exacerbated by the arrival of 15,000 refugees from neighboring Burundi, adding that he had been forced to suspend wages to teachers at local church schools after a delivery driver was killed in a robbery.


3. Fatima and the Antidote for Hell.

By Fr. Roger Landry, The Anchor, April 7, 2017

As authentic Marian apparitions go, many of the aspects of our Lady’s appearances to the three shepherd children in Fatima a century ago seem commonplace: Mary asks the seers to pray and do penance for the conversion of sinners, calls them to daily devotion to the Rosary, advocates for peace in the world, requests the children to return on specific dates, and entrusts them with secrets.

What has never ceased to surprise me, on the other hand, is what she revealed to the children after she had showed them a very vivid vision of hell.

I think it’s worthwhile to pause to consider what we think would have been fitting for her to indicate: what practice would be a remedy for Hell and an antidote for the sinful choices that lead there?

The means by which God wished to establish to save sinners from Hell, she said, was “devotion to my Immaculate Heart” throughout the world. “If what I say to you is done,” she emphasized, “many souls will be saved and there will be peace.”

One of the best ways to mark Fatima’s centenary would be, individually and ecclesially, to renew our Marian consecration and grow in devotion to her Immaculate Heart. This is the way, Mary candidly indicated, God seeks to save us, others and the world from Hell. This is the way of life, she revealed, that will bring peace to the world.


4. Vatican tells UN “population bomb” is not the cause of poverty. 

By Charles Collins, Crux, April 6, 2017

Talk of an “impending population bomb,” the Vatican’s representative to the United Nations said on Wednesday, has led to sometimes “draconian” policies, which ignore the complex nature of population growth.

Auza’s reference to a “population bomb” is a reference to the 1968 book of the same title written by Stanford professor Paul R. Ehrlich, who predicted that by the 1980s mass starvation and other consequences of food shortages caused by overpopulation would lead to social upheavals across the world.

The archbishop, while not naming Ehrlich in his address, countered his arguments by saying “demographic growth is fully compatible with shared prosperity.”

The Vatican diplomat also said it was not a “healthy, growing population” which is causing entrenched poverty, but “corruption, protracted conflicts and other man-made disasters.”