1. Democrats Divided on Abortion Strategy as They Look to 2018 Elections: Campaign officials say they won’t rule out backing pro-life candidates.

By Natalie Andrews, The Wall Street Journal, August 14, 2017, Pg. A4

A policy decision by House Democratic campaign officials to in some cases support candidates who oppose abortion rights is dividing the Democratic Party as it tries to settle on a strategy for taking control of the House in the 2018 elections.

New Mexico Rep. Ben Ray Luján, chairman of the party’s main House campaign arm, angered pro-choice groups when he reiterated late last month that the party wouldn’t rule out backing candidates who oppose abortion rights.

Abortion-rights supporters quickly took issue with the decision, which follows what the committee has done in the past, saying it was the wrong way to go about winning new congressional seats.

The debate comes amid a wider discussion among Democrats about whether the best strategy for gaining seats in next year’s midterm elections is to embrace the political center to win conservative districts, or to try to energize the party’s liberal wing.

The House Democrats’ campaign arm is focusing on recruiting candidates and investing in 80 Republican-held congressional districts as they try to gain the net 24 seats needed to win a House majority. At the same time, EMILY’s List, a super PAC that backs candidates who support abortion rights, is talking to 130 women about running for office in more than 80 House districts across the country, according to a spokeswoman. The two groups could potentially pit valuable dollars against each other in the primaries.

The Democratic Party platform supports abortion rights. Party chairman Tom Perez doesn’t support a litmus test on the issue for Democratic candidates. Mr. Perez met with Democrats for Life in June, but so far the DCCC hasn’t funded any candidates who oppose abortion rights.


2. Pope calls welcoming migrants a way to show brotherhood.

By Associated Press, August 14, 2017, 7:41 AM

Pope Francis is praising acceptance for migrants as a way to show brotherhood, even as Europe’s welcome mat wears thin.

Francis sent a message Monday to a diocesan-organized conference in southern Italy promoting brotherhood in the Mediterranean area.

He encouraged Christians, young people and “all persons of good will to consider the presence of migrants an opportunity for human growth, encounter and dialogue” as well as an opportunity to practice charity.

In the last few years, Italy has taken on hundreds of thousands of asylum-seekers, many of them economic migrants, who were rescued at sea from smugglers’ boats setting out from Libya’s coast. Several European countries have refused to follow EU-assigned quotas to distribute the migrants. Many Italian politicians acknowledge Italy’s patience for caring for migrants is fraying.


3. Editor’s note: Crux announces a new “Prime Directive”.

By John L. Allen Jr., Editor, Crux, August 14, 2017

Up to this point, Crux has never had formal editorial policies, because we’re a small enough operation I didn’t think we needed them. As of today, however, I’m implementing Policy #1. For “Star Trek” fans, you might think of this as our new “Prime Directive”: Yes to vigorous discussion, no to personal attacks.

What got us thinking about this was reaction to a recent piece by Austen Ivereigh, our senior contributor, in which he suggested that attitudes to Pope Francis among certain named individuals may reflect a “convert neurosis.” On his own initiative, Ivereigh has apologized for what came off as a personal attack.

What remains is for me to add my own apology. I should not have allowed such personal criticism to appear, because ultimately everything that runs on Crux is my responsibility.

Lest any conspiracy theories be bred, I’ll add that this policy is not being imposed on Crux by any sponsor, advertiser, or other external force. This comes from within, and it’s about who we want to be.

To avoid another possible misimpression, this is absolutely, positively not an ideological matter. It has nothing to do with the politics of left v. right. We want to have “zero tolerance” for all personal attacks, no matter what their point of origin.


4. An apology for needless offense — and how to disagree better. 

By Austen Ivereigh, Contributing Editor, Crux, August 12, 2017

Recently I used the term “convert neurosis” as a metaphor, and then — because we journalists feel compelled to substantiate our assertions with good evidence — listed a number of people as examples. That offended some, and many others on their behalf. For that I want to apologize. I shouldn’t have given names, and I shouldn’t have used the term “neurosis”. Sorry.

The article, in case you were on the beach, highlighted an issue that is much discussed by many Catholics I know but has seldom been addressed in public, namely, the fact that many of Pope Francis’s prominent critics have come into the Catholic communion from other backgrounds.

That offended some of them, and many others on their behalf, who saw me as pathologizing or psychologizing, or going after them personally rather than their ideas. For that, I want to apologize. I shouldn’t have given names, and I shouldn’t have used the term “neurosis”.

Judging by what used to be called a postbag, a large number of people – converts as well as the native-born – believed I was onto something and were glad the issue was aired, as I continue to hold.

Coincidentally, the question is also discussed in a recent piece in the Irish Catholic and raised as an ecclesial issue in a Commonweal article just before mine by Professor Massimo Faggioli, so maybe there really is something to it.

Of the many criticisms my piece received, what I see as the most unfair was that in some way I was being hostile to those who join the Catholic Church, or was seeking to belittle their gifts and contribution. That’s crazy.

Separately from the question of whether previous ecclesial or cultural experiences condition responses to the papacy or other issues, some of the responses to the article also contained a plea for Pope Francis defenders (as I am seen) to be more understanding of the anger and frustration of those who see discontinuity with the magisteriums of St. John Paul II and Benedict XVI.

Of course, the anger and frustration are equally felt by those who see in the criticisms not just a failure to grasp the deep continuity of the Francis pontificate with previous pontificates, but a disrespect for the papacy as such.

As ever with disagreements, you need to listen to the positive intention of the other (what do they believe in that they feel is threatened?) and, before disagreeing, respect their feelings.

I didn’t do that, and will try harder in the future.


5. Whence the Convert Problem? 

By Marco Tosatti, Vaticanist, First Things, August 11, 2017

I was initially perplexed by the recent dust-up over converts in the Catholic commentariat. It seemed an entirely Anglo-American battle, with no parallel in Italy. Yet upon examination, I have found that the opposite is true.

It began when Michael Sean Winters, a journalist at the liberal National Catholic Reporter, responded to a televised debate between Austen Ivereigh of Crux and Matthew Schmitz of First Things, with a remark directed at the latter: “I am so tired of converts telling us that the pope is not Catholic.” Schmitz had said nothing to that effect. But Ivereigh quickly echoed Winters’s sentiment, identifying Schmitz and others with a broader “convert problem” in the Church, and accusing American converts who criticize the pope of “suffering from convert neurosis.”

This whole controversy, which is rather surreal, might have been just a summer storm. But to understand it, and see whether it might have a deeper meaning, we must place it in the context of the current pontificate.

Ivereigh’s article, which not only offers critique but lists the names of the reprobates, is not the first of its kind. Ever since debate over Amoris Laetitia exploded, there have been repeated inquiries by news outlets in sympathy with the pope to provide the full names of his opponents, pointing out journalists by name. This may be an attempt to delegitimize dissent, to make clear to the laity who are the good guys and who are the bad guys. It is a phenomenon—absolutely new, in my own experience as a Vaticanist—that reduces Vatican politics to personal relationships. From the moment I took a critical line on some of the current pope’s positions and statements, relationships with some of my colleagues ceased.

There is a previously unknown atmosphere of impatience in Rome. It is embodied in a spoils system that applies only to those within the Vatican who are not aligned with the Church’s “new course.” It is possible to view the United States and its episcopate—too traditional, according to the partisans of Pope Francis—as being under attack. The article by Antonio Spadaro and Marcelo Figueroa, on conservative American Catholics and evangelicals, drew the battlelines.

And there is the Vatican blacklist against the elevation of any American bishops or cardinals deemed insufficiently progressive. Isolate these undesirables, and never accept their tips for episcopal appointments, is the policy. If you don’t believe that such a thing exists, just wait and see how many “traditional” priests become bishops in America in the coming months, and which bishops receive cardinals’ berettas.


6. Megadonor Steyer vows to only back candidates that support abortion rights.

By Gabriel Debenedetti, Politico, August 12, 2017, 9:38 AM

Democratic mega-donor Tom Steyer said on Saturday that he and his NextGen America group do not intend to work on behalf of anti-abortion politicians, jumping into the Democratic Party’s ongoing debate on the topic.

“We’re pro-choice,” the hedge fund manager-turned-activist told POLITICO on the sidelines of the progressive Netroots Nation conference here.

Asked if his group would help candidates or sitting lawmakers who don’t support abortion rights, he said, “We do not work for a single candidate who is not pro-choice. I think people like to have litmus tests. We are explicitly pro-choice. We work a lot with Planned Parenthood, we work a lot with NARAL. We are absolutely committed to it.”

Those comments put Steyer — the Democratic Party’s single largest donor in recent cycles thanks largely to the money he’s put in the NextGen super PAC — on the side of activists who have been dismayed by comments made recently by some party leaders like Sen. Bernie Sanders and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chairman Ben Ray Lujan.

They have suggested at times that the party need not have a litmus test on abortion, spurring considerable controversy about which candidates to fund ahead of 2018’s midterm elections.



7. President Of U.S. Conference Of Catholic Bishops Calls For Calm Amid Violent Protests In Charlottesville.

By U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, August 12, 2017

Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, of Galveston-Houston, President of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has issued the following statement in response to the violent protests in Charlottesville, Virginia that has left three dead and at least 19 injured.

Cardinal DiNardo’s full statement follows:

“On behalf of the bishops of the United States, I join leaders from around the nation in condemning the violence and hatred that have now led to one death and multiple injuries in Charlottesville, Virginia. We offer our prayers for the family and loved ones of the person who was killed and for all those who have been injured. We join our voices to all those calling for calm.

The abhorrent acts of hatred on display in Charlottesville are an attack on the unity of our nation and therefore summon us all to fervent prayer and peaceful action. The bishops stand with all who are oppressed by evil ideology and entrust all who suffer to the prayers of St.Peter Claver as we approach his feast day. We also stand ready to work with all people of goodwill for an end to racial violence and for the building of peace in our communities.

Last year a Task Force of our Bishops Conference under Archbishop Wilton Gregory proposed prayers and resources to work for unity and harmony in our country and in our Church. I am encouraging the bishops to continue that work especially as the Feast of St. Peter Claver approaches.”


8. The Need for Healing in the Face of Hate.

By Cardinal Donald Wuerl, Seek First the Kingdom, August 13, 2017

Yesterday, the peace of a summer day was again shattered by hate and acrimony which inevitably turned violent, leading to the tragic death of a young woman and serious injuries to many more, as well as the deaths of two state troopers whose helicopter accidentally crashed while assisting in law enforcement efforts.  The scenes captured in video and pictures of a car slamming into a crowd of protesters and onlookers in Charlottesville and the dark chaos and strife before that awful event are heart-wrenching and painful to view.

Joining with the statement of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, “We offer our prayers for the family and loved ones of the person who was killed and for all those who have been injured. We join our voices to all those calling for calm.”  Our prayer also is that our society and culture find ways to rise above the forces of  fear and antagonism and work instead for a society of true unity, peace and justice.

We must always identify hate for what it is, but the inevitable pointing of fingers of blame after the fact only entrenches division. We as a nation must also engage in soul searching about how it is that there is so much social unrest and violence in our communities. After years of seeing the flames of resentment and division fanned by incitement to bitterness and distrust, should we not now be actively seeking reconciliation and a return to civility?

At this time, as Christians, as disciples of Jesus, we must redouble our efforts to bear a witness for peace and the common good.  As people of good will and faith in God, in solidarity with the victims of hate and violence, let us stand together in prayer and work for healing and unity in our country.


9. Statement of Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap. Regarding Racial Violence in Charlottesville, Virginia.

By Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, Archdiocese of Philidelphia, August 13, 2017

Racism is a poison of the soul. It’s the ugly, original sin of our country, an illness that has never fully healed. Blending it with the Nazi salute, the relic of a regime that murdered millions, compounds the obscenity. Thus the wave of public anger about white nationalist events in Charlottesville this weekend is well warranted. We especially need to pray for those injured in the violence.

But we need more than pious public statements. If our anger today is just another mental virus displaced tomorrow by the next distraction or outrage we find in the media, nothing will change. Charlottesville matters. It’s a snapshot of our public unraveling into real hatreds brutally expressed; a collapse of restraint and mutual respect now taking place across the country. We need to keep the images of Charlottesville alive in our memories. If we want a different kind of country in the future, we need to start today with a conversion in our own hearts, and an insistence on the same in others. That may sound simple. But the history of our nation and its tortured attitudes toward race proves exactly the opposite.


10. Post-Charlottesville, ending ‘invisibility’ of African-American Catholics.

By John L. Allen Jr., Editor, Crux, August 14, 2017

It’s not as if Americans should have needed Charlottesville, Virginia, to remind us we’ve got a problem with race, including the ugly growth of white supremacy. Yet if the horrifying images we saw Saturday, including a car driven by a man with a history of Nazi sympathies plowing into a crowd of counter-protestors, leaving one dead and at least 19 injured, wasn’t a wake-up call, it’s hard to know what would be.

As Archbishop Wilton Gregory of Atlanta put it in a recent Crux interview:

“We’ve grown very accustomed to saying in the face of violence, ‘We send our thoughts and prayers.’ What we need to do is to send the thoughts and prayers before the event occurs. We need that investment before we’re using it in the face of a violent action,” he said.

Post-Charlottesville, that seems more obvious than ever. The question is, where will that investment take shape?

From a Catholic point of view, it’s hard not to think one such venue could be, and should be, the Catholic Church. We’re a quarter of the national population, and the Church in the U.S. includes within itself people of all racial and cultural backgrounds.

If that’s to happen, American Catholicism will have to take full advantage of all the resources it’s got. While there are many, one that’s often overlooked is represented by the country’s African-American bishops, and organizations of African-American Catholics such as the National Black Catholic Congress.

Perhaps what the American church needs is a national summit on race, maybe a smaller-scale version of the recent “Convocation of Catholic Leaders” hosted by the bishops in Orlando, Florida, in early July, devoted exclusively to this topic, which wouldn’t just feature African-American or Hispanic Catholics (or Asians etc.), but all of us together.

At the same time, the country’s roughly 3 million African-American Catholics, as well as our 16 African-American bishops (including nine currently in office and seven retired), bring unique perspectives and experiences to bear on that common effort.

There are undoubtedly lots of reasons for that neglect, some benign and others not so much, but in any event, it must end. If the Catholic Church is to be a contributor to racial healing in America, it has to begin by taking its own racial diversity more seriously, learning to value both the pasts and presents of all those communities.