1. How Trump Won, in Two Dimensions: A study shows the 2016 electorate was more socially than economically conservative. 

By  F.H. Buckley, professor at Scalia Law School at George Mason University and the author of “The Way Back: Restoring the Promise of America.”, The Wall Street Journal, August 10, 2017, Pg. A15

Before the arrival of Donald Trump, the Republican establishment tended to define politics along a one-dimensional economic axis. Their Democratic opponents were socialists while they were the growth and opportunity party. Mitt Romney’s candidacy embodied this view. His campaign’s 59-point plan of sensible free-market ideas was a manifesto for Republican insiders. No one but them ever read it. The Republican one-dimensional man was left in 2012’s dustbin.

The Voter Study Group’s Lee Drutman recently looked beyond the simple left-right paradigm in a questionnaire asking 2016 voters to identify both how they voted and how they felt about various economic and social issues. Mr. Drutman then mapped the results in a diagram, with economic preferences on the horizontal axis and social preferences on the vertical. The diagram revealed some surprising insights about American politics.

Most Hillary Clinton voters were deeply liberal on both axes. The surprise was the Trump voters, who were very conservative on social issues but moderate on economic ones. By Mr. Drutman’s count, 73% of all voters were left of center on economics. Most of the remaining Trump supporters were quite moderate on economic questions.

The crucial differences between the two parties came down to social concerns, including pride in America, immigration, and especially moral issues such as abortion and gay marriage. The social-conservative awakening that helped elect Mr. Trump came when voters recognized that the liberal agenda amounted to something more than a shield to protect sexual minorities. It was also a sword to be used against social conservatives.

The Trump voters might have grumbled about the Supreme Court’s 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges decision, but same-sex marriage didn’t pick anyone’s pockets and no great political protest followed. That changed, however, when homosexual activists employed their newly won rights to start putting religious believers out of business.

In particular, the Democrats gave the back of their hand to Catholic voters, the principal bloc of swing voters in America. Democrats of the past would have been horrified to learn that their party makes faithful Catholics feel unwanted: That’s what they thought Republicans did. But Mr. Trump courted white Catholics, and they provided him with the winning margins in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan. Those three states determined the outcome of the election.


2. Pope Francis to Belgian Catholics: Stop offering euthanasia.

By Maria Cheng, Associated Press, August 10, 2017, 8:48 AM

Pope Francis has ordered a Belgian Catholic charity to stop offering euthanasia in its psychiatric hospitals.

In May, the Brothers of Charity group announced it would allow doctors to perform euthanasia at its 15 psychiatric hospitals in Belgium, one of only two countries — along with the Netherlands — where doctors are legally allowed to kill people with mental health problems, at their request.

The Vatican press office said this week that the pope had asked the Belgians not to perform euthanasia.

The Catholic Church opposes euthanasia and the Holy See has begun investigating the decision to allow the procedure, which was made by the group’s lay board of directors.

The Belgian charity’s administrative headquarters in Rome issued a statement in May, arguing that allowing euthanasia “goes against the basic principles” of the Catholic Church.


3. More and more, Parolin’s the face of authority in Francis’s Vatican. 

By John L. Allen Jr., Editor, Crux, August 10, 2017

Later this month, Italian Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican’s Secretariat of State, departs for a four-day trip to Moscow during which he’ll meet both Russian President Vladimir Putin and Patriarch Kirill of Moscow, thereby turning a neat double-play – advancing both the Vatican’s geopolitical agenda, as well as its desire for closer relations with the world’s 225-300 million Orthodox Christians.

For those with eyes to see, the trip is additional confirmation that there’s no single figure in Pope Francis’s Vatican today more trusted, or more powerful, than the 62-year-old Parolin, the son of a hardware store manager and an elementary school teacher from the northern Italian province of Vicenza.

In the beginning, it wasn’t supposed to be this way.

When Pope Francis was elected in March 2013, the expectation inside the Vatican was for sweeping reform, beginning with cutting the all-powerful Secretariat of State down to size. Traditionally, the division of power in Rome was understood as quasi-President/Prime Minister structure, with the pope as the head of state and the Cardinal Secretary of State as the head of government.

Right out of the gate, Francis took a number of steps that seemed to indicate a diminished role for the Secretariat of State. Just one month after his election, he announced the formation of a Council of Cardinal Advisers, signaling that important decisions would be made by representatives of the local churches around the world rather than Roman bureaucrats.

Many analysts were saying that in Francis’s new-look Vatican, the Secretariat of State was destined to become no more than a foreign ministry, useful for arranging meets with other heads of state and issuing communiques on diplomatic situations, but with relatively little control over internal administration.

Thus in October 2013, when Francis chose to replace Bertone with Parolin, who had been serving as the pope’s ambassador to Venezuela after a seven-year stint as the Undersecretary of State for Relations with States, expectations were not terribly high.

In the months to come, Parolin would prevail in a series of power struggles with Pell over the broad direction of financial reform, largely succeeding in requiring control over the decisions that matter. The reemergence of the Secretariat of State also seemed confirmed in September 2016, when Francis issued a set of his statutes for a new Secretariat for Communications that almost seemed to bend over backwards to emphasize the role of the Secretariat of State.

Bottom line: Read those statutes, and there’s no missing who’s really in charge.

Why is this steady re-centralization of power happening?

To begin, there’s the root fact that Parolin has Francis’s trust. Parolin was widely seen as the best and brightest Vatican diplomat of his generation, he’s a man of personal integrity, and plus, he’s simply a really nice guy who’s hard not to like.

Beyond that, there are likely three other factors that have assisted Parolin’s rise.

First, Francis is a politically and diplomatically activist pope, who cares deeply about matters such as the Colombia peace process, ending Cold War tensions between the United States and Cuba, and the unraveling situation in Venezuela. That’s Parolin’s wheelhouse, and it’s logical that in a time of dynamic papal diplomacy, the profile of his top diplomat would also grow.

Second, Parolin’s erstwhile former rival, Pell, has been distracted by legal challenges in his native Australia, and is now home for an indefinite period fighting allegations of “historical sexual offenses.” Pell’s star had already dimmed inside the Vatican before those charges were announced, but clearly this hasn’t helped.

Third, the traditional counter-weight to the Secretariat of State long has been the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican’s doctrinal watchdog agency once known as La Suprema, or the “supreme” department for its critical role in bestowing (or withholding) theological approval for almost everything the place does.


4. A Church that is a Home.

By Matthew Schmitz, literary editor, First Things, August 9, 2017

Writing in Commonweal, Massimo Faggioli complains that the Catholic Church in America is dominated by converts—including me. Faggioli is a liberal Catholic, and he appears to be distressed that, as a rule, vocal converts are not. We are loud, he complains, and we retain the gross manners of our previous communions. Perhaps our children will merit full participation in Catholic debate, but those of us who are new to the faith should lower our voices so that old Catholics can speak.

He particularly regrets that some converts have expressed displeasure with actions of the Pope. He goes as far as to say that I am guilty of “accusing the current pope of not being Catholic.” Or rather, he once did so. This statement has since been corrected by the editors of Commonweal, who are not generally sympathetic to my work, but who are honest enough to acknowledge that I have not done this.

Austen Ivereigh echoes Faggioli in Crux. He writes that “Schmitz never actually said the pope wasn’t Catholic, but his narrative … adds up to something rather like it.” To support this assertion, Ivereigh quotes Ross Douthat saying something pungent about Pope Francis—though not, strangely, claiming that the pope is not Catholic. Let me see if I have this right: I did not actually say that the pope is not Catholic, but I as good as did, because Ross Douthat (and here I admit I lose the thread) also did not say that the pope is not Catholic. It is a game of thimblerig.

Ivereigh has some kind words for converts. He says that the Church “exists to spread the Gospel, and some of those it touches will want to become Catholic, and that’s wonderful.” These people “are special, and bring great gifts.” In sum, “We love converts.” This love would seem to require a great act of charity, however. Ivereigh diagnoses these special people with “convert neurosis.” They exhibit a “pathological or extreme reaction to something that simply doesn’t correspond to reality.” They are fresh off the boat, and “their baggage has distorted their hermeneutic.”

Both Faggioli and Ivereigh are keen to downplay the doctrinal disagreements that currently split the Church. Faggioli applies a more sociological lens, Ivereigh a more psychological one, to explain away disagreement as stemming from something other than a difference in principle. These tactics are typical of the current pontificate, in which formal doctrinal condemnations and definitions have been set aside in favor of psychologizing the opposition. The cardinals who submitted the dubia have not been answered; they have been accused of some defect of mind or character. If the Church is a field hospital, it would seem to have a large and active psychiatric ward.

Behind all this stands the conceit of a divide—perhaps growing—between cradle Catholics and converts.

Catholicism proclaims the Incarnation by bodying forth grace in this world. It adopts us into a little family led by Mother and Father. It is this wonderful aspect of the faith that inclines cradle Catholics to snobbery toward converts. For those raised in the faith, the Church is a real enough home that they can feel disdain for interlopers. No one minds if another man assents to the same abstract principles that he does; but if that man moves into his house and competes for the affection of his mother, he is likely to become jealous. Contempt for vulgar new arrivals is not exactly saintly, but it seems inevitable in a Church that not only welcomes sinners but also asks them to play host.

Of course, something more than mere suspicion of strangers is going on in the Church today; there are deep disputes that can only be solved on their own terms. But to the extent that we really do have a battle between cradle Catholics and converts, I hope the latter are forgiving of the former. Prejudice toward newcomers is a small price to pay for a Church that is a home.