1. The Secular Busybodies Lose Again.

The Wall Street Journal, August 19, 2019, Pg. A18, Review & Outlook

Supreme Court precedent travels fast.

Less than two months ago the Justices ruled 7-2 that a 40-foot stone war memorial, the Peace Cross in Bladensburg, Md., could stay standing on public ground, despite its religious symbolism. Now a federal appeals court has applied that logic to save a 75-year-old county seal.

Lehigh County, Pa., which includes Allentown, adopted its seal in 1944. It includes a Latin cross, superimposed with an image of the county courthouse. Surrounding them are such secular symbols as a heart, lamp, cow, grain silo, bison head, and factory with billowing smokestacks. 

Judge Thomas Hardiman, who was on President Trump’s short list for potential Supreme Court picks, wrote the opinion. “The Latin cross at issue here no doubt carries religious significance,” he said. “But more than seven decades after its adoption, the seal has become a familiar, embedded feature of Lehigh County, attaining a broader meaning than any one of its many symbols.” 


2. Ruing Lost Chances to Stem the Opioid Crisis They Saw Coming.

By Barry Meier, The New York Times, August 19, 2019, Pg. A13

Years before there was an opioid epidemic in America, Sister Beth Davies knew it was coming.

In the late 1990s, patient after patient addicted to a new prescription painkiller called OxyContin began walking into the substance abuse clinic she ran in this worn Appalachian town. A local physician, Dr. Art Van Zee, sensed the gathering storm, too, as teenagers overdosed on the drug. His wife, Sue Ella Kobak, a lawyer, saw the danger signs in a growing wave of robberies and other crimes that all had links to OxyContin.

The Catholic nun, the doctor and the lawyer were among the first in the country to sound an alarm about the misuse of prescription opioids, the beginnings of a cycle of addiction that would kill 400,000 people in the ensuing two decades as it spread to illegal opioids like heroin and counterfeit versions of fentanyl. They led a burst of local activism against Purdue Pharma, OxyContin’s maker, that the company ultimately crushed. It would eventually help kindle national awareness that led to a wave of legal actions that are still awaiting resolution.


3. West Virginia’s new Catholic bishop set to be installed.

The Associated Press, August 19, 2019, 5:49 AM

West Virginia’s new Roman Catholic bishop is set to be installed this week.

A ceremony is scheduled for Thursday at the Cathedral of St. Joseph in Wheeling for the Most Rev. Mark Brennan, who previously was auxiliary bishop of Baltimore.

The Wheeling-Charleston diocese includes nearly 75,000 Catholics and 95 parishes and encompasses the entire state of West Virginia.


4. Bid to allow some married priests engages celibacy debate.

By Chico Harlan, The Washington Post, August 18, 2019, Pg. A1

In the sprawling Amazon region, the Catholic Church is severely short on priests. Clerics trek from one town to the next, sometimes requiring military transport to get to their remote destinations. Communities can go months without a visit. The church, as a result, is struggling to hold its influence.

One new proposal to ease the shortage would allow older, married men in the region to be ordained as priests.

South American bishops have advocated for the idea, and Pope Francis has indicated some willingness to narrowly open the door to married men in this specific case. But the proposal has set off a debate about whether Francis is trying to bolster the ranks of the priesthood or upend its deep-rooted traditions.

The Amazon would not be the first exception. Married Anglican ministers, in some cases, have been welcomed into the Catholic priesthood after conversions. And Eastern Catholic churches, even those in communion with Rome, allow for married men in the priesthood.


5. I walked across Spain. Here’s what I learned.

By Arthur C. Brooks, The Washington Post, August 18, 2019, Pg. A27, Opinion

Life is overflowing with demands. Everything is urgent; every minute feels like it is booked. And yet, there’s no sense of direction. The what of life is clear; the why, not so much.

Sound familiar? I have a solution for you: Go walk a few hundred miles for no obvious reason. That’s what I did. Last month, my wife and I walked the ancient Camino de Santiago, or Way of Saint James, across northern Spain.

Let me back up by about a thousand years. In the 9th century, the remains of Santiago (in English, Saint James the Greater — one of the 12 apostles) were discovered near what is today the city that now bears his name, Santiago de Compostela. A journey to the site quickly became one of the three great Catholic pilgrimages, along with those to Jerusalem and Rome. Over the past millennium, millions of people — often adorned with the scallop shell famed for signifying that one is a Camino pilgrim — have walked as much as 500 miles to the cathedral of Santiago.

The Camino’s modern popularity should be the greatest occasion for evangelization in centuries. That opportunity is being squandered by the sleepy Spanish Catholic Church, which presides over the decline of faith in what is now effectively a formerly Catholic country. The church has left the Camino (like nearly everything else) to the government, which treats it like any other tourist attraction.

But the pilgrims still come, in larger and larger numbers. If not explicitly the divine, what are they seeking? 

The authors surveyed Camino pilgrims about their motives. Two-thirds identified a “need for clarification” as their motivation. To me, this rings exactly true.

 So it is in our modern lives. They are dense with stimuli of intense urgency but dubious importance. We often can’t see our way forward or understand the past. Our days are spent bombarded with experiences and relationships of uncertain value. We crave anything that clarifies the chaos; a model from which we can stand back to understand life as something like a purposeful journey.

The Camino is just such a model. Every step is a rich metaphor for life itself, full of lessons to learn and remember. There is a daily realization that a destination creates a trajectory but is not the only reward; that the journey itself must be savored; that the bliss of the divine can be revealed in mundane details if one pays attention; that most of life’s problems are basically just, well, blisters.

I will be processing my Camino for years to come. But I think I finally understand much of the change and turbulence in my own life, which is currently in transition. I have taken my pilgrimage and am at greater peace. I recommend it to you.


6. ‘Miracle house’ in Ohio draws pilgrims amid sainthood push.

By Mitch Stacy, The Associated Press, August 18, 2019

Late in the summer of 1939, crowds of strangers started showing up at Rhoda Wise’s house next to a city dump in Ohio after she let it be known that miracles were occurring in her room.

Eight decades later, people still make pilgrimages to the wood frame bungalow at the edge of Canton, Ohio, seeking their own miracles. Wise died in 1948, but her legend as a Christian mystic has blossomed with time. And last fall, after years of discussions, the local Roman Catholic diocese petitioned the Vatican to make Wise a saint, renewing interest in her former home.

The story starts with the sickly Wise, who lived with her alcoholic husband and young daughter, claiming she was healed of a terminal illness and was visited by Jesus Christ as she suffered in her bed.

The parade of pilgrims slowed down after Wise’s death but never stopped. Her house — now with beige vinyl siding and a good-sized parking lot — has remained an under-the-radar destination for the faithful and curious.

Her former home is one of dozens of Catholic shrines and pilgrimage sites in the United States, ranging from modest to grand.


7. Pope Francis: Discover the beauty of prayer in adoration.

By Courtney Grogan, Catholic News Agency, August 18, 2019, 5:25 AM

Pope Francis said Sunday that prayer in adoration of God and service to others spreads the fire of God’s love, changing the world one heart at a time.

“I invite everyone to discover the beauty of the prayer of adoration and to exercise it often,” Pope Francis said Aug. 18.

Adoration of God in prayer is necessary to allow the fire of love that Jesus brought to the earth to envelop our entire existence, the pope explained.

In his Angelus address, the pope reflected upon this Sunday’s Gospel from Luke in which Jesus says to his disciples, “I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing!”


8. US court declines again to halt Trump family planning rules.

The Associated Press, August 16, 2019, 9:38 PM

A U.S. appeals court has declined once again to immediately halt new Trump administration rules that bar taxpayer-funded clinics from referring patients for abortions.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals late Friday rejected a request from more than 20 states, Planned Parenthood and the American Medical Association to block the rules from taking effect while the case proceeds.

A three-judge panel and an 11-judge panel have already said the rules can take effect while the administration appeals lower court rulings that blocked them. Oral arguments are next month.

Planned Parenthood has said it will leave the federal Title X program by Monday if the rules aren’t blocked.

About 4 million women are served nationwide under the program, which is designed to improve access to family planning for low-income women.


9. Missouri abortion law critics won’t seek signatures for vote.

By Summer Ballentine, The Associated Press, August 15, 2019

Critics of a new Missouri law that bans abortions after eight weeks of pregnancy say they won’t make a push to gather the signatures needed to block it pending a public vote, meaning it’s on course to take effect at the end of the month.

Opponents of the law sought a referendum in the hopes that voters would overturn it. 

The law will ban abortions at or after eight weeks of pregnancy. It includes exceptions for medical emergencies, but not for rape or incest. Doctors who violate the eight-week cutoff could face five to 15 years in prison. Women who terminate their pregnancies cannot be prosecuted.


10. The Amazon synod organisers are at odds with Pope Francis.

By Fr Raymond de Souza, The Catholic Herald (UK), August 15, 2019

In a recent interview granted to La Stampa, Pope Francis spoke about the Synod for the Amazon, which will take place in October. The Synod’s Instrumentum Laboris (IL) was released in June and has been subject to withering criticism since, in particular from Cardinal Gerhard Müller, former prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

While most attention has been given to the proposed discussion of ordaining mature married men to the priesthood in remote areas, the IL has also been found wanting on theological grounds: Cardinal Müller and others believe it calls into question the universal mission of the Church and leans toward a pantheistic eco-spirituality.

It seems the IL even caused alarm in the Melbourne prison where Cardinal George Pell is being held pending his appeal. In a recent letter to his supporters, Cardinal Pell wrote that there is “reason to be disturbed” by the IL.

“This is not the first low-quality document the Synod secretariat has prod­uced,” Pell tartly noted.

This remark helps to explain the context: the concerns about the IL are framed against the experience of the previous synods, especially the twin synods on the family in 2014 and 2015.

Therefore the big news from the La Stampa interview is not that big. Pope Francis said that the ordination of married men is “absolutely not” among the main topics, it is simply one point among others.


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