1. Metro’s ban on religious ads upheld. 

By Ann E. Marimow, The Washington Post, August 1, 2018, Pg. B1

The Washington region’s transit system can bar religious messages on its buses and trains and in its stations, a federal appeals court ruled Tuesday as it upheld Metro’s policy prohibiting issue-oriented advertisements.

The ruling in Metro’s favor from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit came in response to a lawsuit from the Archdiocese of Washington, which said the transit system’s policy had gone too far in rejecting its religious-themed ad campaign.

The archdiocese’s “claim of discriminatory treatment is based on hypothesis,” wrote Judge Judith W. Rogers. “Were the Archdiocese to prevail, WMATA (and other transit systems) would have to accept all types of advertisements to maintain viewpoint neutrality, including ads criticizing and disparaging religion and religious tenets or practices.”

The third judge on the panel, Brett M. Kavanaugh, referred to Metro’s ban as “pure discrimination” during oral argument in March. But Kavanaugh, who is now President Trump’s Supreme Court pick, did not participate in the decision Tuesday because of his pending nomination.

fter the Tuesday ruling, the archdiocese is reviewing the decision to determine its next steps. Ed McFadden, secretary of communications, said in a statement that the ruling is a reminder that “freedom of religions and expression in the public square should never be taken for granted, and we will continue to defend those rights at every opportunity.”


2. States oppose change to family-planning program. 

By Ariana Eunjung Cha, The Washington Post, August 1, 2018, Pg. A18

Governors from a growing number of states are fighting back against a proposal by the Trump administration to bar clinics that provide abortion services or referrals from receiving federal family-planning funds. New York’s Andrew M. Cuomo (D) and 13 others have threatened to sue. Washington state’s Jay Inslee, Oregon’s Kate Brown and Hawaii’s David Ige, also Democrats, vowed to pull their states from the program if the changes are implemented.

On Monday, 13 attorneys general, all Democrats, added their voices to the opposition, arguing that the changes are unconstitutional.

“We will fight this rule at every turn,” said California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, who is leading the coalition.

The new rule, announced May 18 by the White House and Department of Health and Human Services, is an effort to create what officials described as a “bright line” of physical and financial separation in the $260 million Title X program, designed to provide basic primary and preventive health services for low-income women and families, so that taxpayers do not “indirectly fund abortions.”


3. Why India must reconsider its anti-conversion laws. 

By Joseph D’Souza, Joseph DSouza is the archbishop of the Good Shepherd Church and Associated Ministries of India. He also serves as the president of the All India Christian Council, The Washington Times, August 1, 2018, Pg. B4, Opinion

Last week, the State Department made history by hosting the first ever Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom. … It’s also an important reminder of the essential role religious freedom plays in protecting democracy.

Coming from India, a country known for its long and beautiful religious history as well as its present religiously-incited tensions, I’m keenly aware of why faith leaders and governments must cooperate in promoting tolerance and mutual understanding. Religious intolerance, at both the civil and political levels, always leads to discrimination and oppression, as is the case with India’s anti-conversion laws.

Recently, the small state of Arunachal Pradesh became the subject of national debate when its chief minister unexpectedly announced he would repeal the state’s 40-year-old Freedom of Religion Act — a bill enacted in several Indian states that prevents religious conversion through “forcible” or “fraudulent” means.

According to Chief Minister Pema Kandhu, the law does the exact opposite of what it was intended to do. Instead of serving as a measure to protect Arunachal Pradesh’s indigenous religious communities from forced or fraudulent conversions, the law has been weaponized to oppress the freedom of religion of other communities. “The law could undermine secularism and is probably targeted towards Christians,” the chief minister said.

As is usual in India, not a day had gone by before the announcement drew heavy criticism. Local tribal group leaders slammed the announcement as “minority appeasement” and an attack on their indigenous culture. The reaction is not unlike what led to the formation of the act in the first place: Misplaced fear that other religious groups, like Christians and Muslims, want to force people into their faiths.

Despite the misunderstandings and controversy, repealing the act ahead of the upcoming general elections is an opportunity for Prime Minister Modi’s BJP party to break the stereotype that it cannot be a secular party and allow for religious freedom. It would be a fulfillment of the prime minister’s promise — which he has announced on the global stage — to be committed to religious freedom.

Doing so would also acknowledge that Indian Christians are as patriotic as any other Indian and are fervent in their commitment to Indian nationalism.


4. Court says Metro can ban religious ads, Proposed poster featured church’s website, hashtag. 

By Alex Swoyer, The Washington Times, August 1, 2018, Pg. A12

A federal appeals court said Tuesday that Metro can ban religious advertisements and other advocacy ads, ruling against the Archdiocese of Washington, which had sought to place pro-Christmas posters on buses.

Tuesday’s ruling by the full U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia upheld a decision by a three-judge panel in December that said Metro officials were within their rights to reject the archdiocese’s posters as part of the transit agency’s ban on ads that promote religion, religious practice or belief.

The Archdiocese of Washington sued Metro late last year, claiming a First Amendment right to the ads. In addition, the Justice Department filed a “friend of the court” motion in the case in support of the archdiocese’s claim, which the court rejected.

“City buses, by contrast, enjoy no historical tradition like parks and sidewalks because transit was a private enterprise in most American cities until the second half of the twentieth century,” Judge Judith W. Rogers, a Clinton appointee, wrote in the opinion for the court.

Judge Robert L. Wilkins, an Obama appointee, concurred in the judgment, saying the Constitution permits the government control over expressive content in limited circumstances.

Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh, whom President Trump has nominated to the Supreme Court, was part of the original three-judge panel, but he did not participate in issuing Tuesday’s opinion.


5. Pope blasts “supermarket of idols” of money, drugs, vanity. 

By Associated Press, August 1, 2018, 5:58 AM

Pope Francis has returned from a month’s vacation, blasting the “idols” of money, drugs and vanity that he said distract people from God and render them blind to love.

Francis resumed his weekly catechism lessons Wednesday, telling his weekly general audience that the “supermarket of idols” available today promises happiness but never delivers.

Returning to a common theme, Francis listed lust for money, success, or smartphones, and even spending too much time in front of the mirror or going to tarot card readers as evidence of a veneration of idols. He included drugs in the list, saying: “How many young people have ruined their health by adoring the idol of drugs?”


6. Argentine doctors protest legal abortion ahead of key vote. 

By Almudena Calatrava, Associated Press, August 1, 2018, 12:06 AM

A campaign to expand legal abortions in the homeland of Pope Francis is bitterly dividing Argentines — and increasingly even the profession that would be asked to carry them out.

Hundreds of physicians have staged anti-abortion protests as an abortion rights bill moves toward a vote in the Senate next week. Some have demonstrated while carrying fetus-shaped dolls and waving signs saying: “I’m a doctor, not a murderer.” At one recent protest, they laid white medical coats on the ground outside the presidential palace.

Leaders of the prestigious Argentina Medical Society have endorsed the bill, which has already passed the lower house of Congress. They said it would help reduce deaths among the estimated 400,000 to 500,000 women who now receive clandestine abortions each year.

But the equally august Academy of Medicine vehemently rejects the legislation. The academy issued a statement that human life begins at conception and “to destroy a human embryo means impeding the birth of a human being.”

“Nothing good can come when society chooses death as a solution,” it said.


7. China promoting flying of state flags at religious events. 

By Associated Press, August 1, 2018, 1:19 AM

Officially recognized faith groups in China are promoting the flying of national flags at religious events amid a push by the ruling Communist Party to extend its ideological control over religious life.

Flying the flag would emphasize that the fates of the party, nation and individual are “bound tightly together,” a statement viewed Wednesday on the website of the party’s United Front Work Department that oversees such groups said.

“Raising the flag at religious venues abets the strengthening of religious figures’ and religious believers’ national and civic consciousness and creates a sense of the Chinese nation’s community,” said the statement, issued following a conference of groups representing Buddhists, Taoists, Protestants, Catholics and Muslims.

The officially atheistic party has tightened its grip over the country’s five officially recognized religions this year, ordering especially that Christians and Muslims — religions considered foreign to China — work toward “sinosization.”


8. Indian cardinal: Proposed confession ban is ‘absurd,’ unconstitutional. 

By Catholic News Agency, August 1, 2018

A proposed ban on the sacrament of confession suggested by a government body in India was slammed by Catholic leaders as an unconstitutional violation of religious freedom.

The move to abolish confessions in all churches in the nation was put forth by India’s National Commission for Women, a government advisory agency.

The proposal, which was part of a larger report on church sexual abuse, follows two recent scandals in India involving confession, including one in which a bishop was accused of raping a nun, and another in which four priests of the Syro-Malankara Orthodox Church were accused of using confession to blackmail and sexually abuse a 34 year-old married woman.

Cardinal Oswald Gracias, archbishop of Bombay and president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of India (CBCI), said in a statement he was “shocked” by the proposed ban.


9. Appeals court rules against Washington archdiocese in bus ad case. 

By Christine Rousselle, Catholic News Agency, July 31, 2018, 3:01 PM

The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority was within its rights to ban the Archdiocese of Washington’s religious-themed advertisements, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled Tuesday.

This past December, WMATA rejected a bus advertisement from the Washington archdiocese that directed people to a website for its “Find the Perfect Gift” campaign. The website contains Mass time information, basic information about Christmas and Advent traditions, and had links for various Catholic charitable organizations. The ads were rejected due to their religious content.

Ashley McGuire, a senior fellow with The Catholic Association, took issue with the Court’s claim that WMATA “does not take sides,” saying in a statement that this was “laughable.”

Instead, McGuire believes that the fedrally-funded metro system has “taken the side of restricting any and all religious speech,” which is in violation of the First Amendment.

“Tinder (a dating/hookup app) and Blue Apron (a meal service) can buy ads, but the Catholic Church cannot,” said McGuire.

“It’s a textbook case of discrimination; it sends the clear message that secular speech is welcome in the public, but religious speech is offensive and should be barred.”


10. DC court sides with transit agency in dispute with church. 

By Associated Press, July 31, 2018, 3:10 PM

A federal appeals court in Washington is siding with transportation officials in a dispute about the transit agency’s decision to reject an ad from the Roman Catholic Church.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled Tuesday.

The Archdiocese of Washington sued in 2017 after Metro rejected an ad for its Christmas fundraising effort, which showed a biblical scene. The archdiocese argued Metro’s decision violated the First Amendment. Metro pointed to its blanket policy of refusing to accept issue-oriented ads including political, religious and advocacy ads.


11. US Vatican cardinal: “Not once did I even suspect” McCarrick. 

By Nicole Winfield, Associated Press, July 31, 2018, 2:26 PM

The highest-ranking American at the Vatican insisted Tuesday he never knew or even suspected that his former boss, disgraced ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, allegedly sexually abused boys and adult seminarians, telling The Associated Press he is livid that he was kept in the dark because he would have done something about it.

Cardinal Kevin Farrell, head of the Vatican’s family and laity office, spoke as the U.S. church hierarchy has come under fire from ordinary American Catholics outraged that McCarrick’s misconduct with men was apparently an open secret in some U.S. church circles.



By Bishop Edward B. Scharfenberger, Edward B. Scharfenberger is the Bishop of Albany, Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany, July 29, 2018

A psalm-prayer this morning from the Office of the Hours reads: “Lord Jesus, you were rejected by your people, betrayed by the kiss of a friend, and deserted by your disciples. Give us the confidence that you had in the Father, and our salvation will be assured.”

Like Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, many of our faithful are now feeling betrayed and abandoned by their spiritual fathers, especially the bishops. Perhaps you share this feeling, too. No doubt you have been and will be hearing from your people about how shaken and discouraged they are over public revelations of despicable behavior on the part of a very popular and charismatic Cardinal with priests and seminarians in his care. One holy and faithful Catholic gentleman – a medical professional and a dear friend – texted me just this morning about his family’s utter despondency over this and that the USCCB should disband itself: “[t]heir credibility is shot, probably for decades.”

More words are not going to repair, let alone restore, the damage that has been done. Lawyering, pledges and changes in the bureaucratic structures and policy – however well intentioned – cannot do it either. I do not see how we can avoid what is really at the root of this crisis: sin and a retreat from holiness, specifically the holiness of an integral, truly human sexuality.

In negative terms, and as clearly and directly as I can repeat our Church teaching, it is a grave sin to be “sexually active” outside of a real marriage covenant. A cardinal is not excused from what a layperson or another member of the clergy is not. A member of the clergy who pledges to live a celibate life must remain as chaste in his relationship with all whom he serves as spouses within a marriage. This is what our faith teaches and what we are held to in practice. There is no “third way.”

“Sexual activity” includes grooming and seduction – the kind of experience that one of our brothers tells of in a recent interview in America magazine that you may have seen. The psychological and spiritual destructiveness of such predatory behavior, really incestuous by a man who is held up as a spiritual father to a son in his care – even if not a minor – cannot be minimized or rationalized in any way. On that, it seems to me, we are experiencing an unusual unity amidst the many political and ecclesial tensions in our communities.

Abuse of authority – in this case, with strong sexual overtones – with vulnerable persons is hardly less reprehensible than the sexual abuse of minors, which the USCCB attempted to address in 2002. Unfortunately, at that time – something I never understood – the Charter did not go far enough so as to hold cardinals, archbishops and bishops equally, if not more, accountable than priests and deacons. 

It is my belief that the vast majority of clergy – priests, deacons and bishops alike – live or, at least, are striving to live holy and admirable lifestyles. I am ashamed of those of my brothers, such as the Cardinal, who do not and have not. As your Bishop, you can be sure of my support for you and all the faithful during this very difficult time. As the Holy Spirit impels me, I will use every power my office holds on all levels at which I serve, local and national, to further this charge.

We should be grateful for all of those who have come forward to expose these patterns of sin in the lives of some – as well as the institutional sins of denial and suppression of those brave witnesses whose warnings went unheard or unheeded, so that some of the harm might have been prevented. 

I hope and pray that others who may have suffered such traumatic experiences at the hands of their spiritual fathers will find the courage to say so. To you, if you are among them, and to them I offer my support and assistance in any way the resources I have can muster.

Let me be clear, however, in stating my firm conviction that this is, at heart, much more than a crisis of policies and procedures. We can – and I am confident that we will – strengthen the rules and regulations and sanctions against any trying to fly under the radar or to “get away with” such evil and destructive behaviors. But, at its heart, this is much more than a challenge of law enforcement; it is a profoundly spiritual crisis.

Blessed Pope Paul VI prophetically warned us in Humanae Vitae of the long-range consequences of the separation of sexuality and sexual behavior from the conjugal relationship. Contemporary culture in our part of the world now holds it normative that sex and sexual gratification between any consenting persons for any reason that their free wills allow is perfectly acceptable. This is not a sexuality befitting of human beings that responds to the need and true desire of every human person to be respected and loved fully and unconditionally. 

All of us who are ordained to preach what the Church teaches must practice what we preach and teach. We also need to uphold what our faith proclaims about the gift and beauty of human sexuality, fully lived in its essential conjugal meaning. A culture of virtue and chastity – in short, personal holiness – rooted in a trusting and committed relationship with Jesus Christ is the path toward healing and wholeness, even as we seek to drive the evil behaviors among us from the womb of the Church.

Our preparation for the upcoming Eucharistic Congress on September 22nd in the Shrine of Our Lady Queen of Martyrs will be a time of spiritual renewal for all of us seeking to follow in the footsteps of our Lord and Master who was himself betrayed by his closest friends, but died for us to save us from ourselves and to offer us a way to living our humanity fully in this life and in the heaven to come.