1. Pope changes death penalty teaching, now ‘inadmissible’. 

By Nicole Winfield, Associated Press, August 2, 2018, 6:55 AM

Pope Francis has changed church teaching about the death penalty, saying in a new policy published Thursday that it is always “inadmissible” because it “attacks” the inherent dignity of all humans.

The Vatican said Francis had approved a change to the Catechism of the Catholic Church — the compilation of official Catholic Church teaching. Previously, the catechism said the church didn’t exclude recourse to capital punishment “if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor.”

In an accompanying letter explaining the change, the head of the Vatican’s doctrine office said the development of Catholic doctrine on capital punishment didn’t contradict prior teaching, but rather was an evolution of it.


2. U.S. is Most Religious Among Western Nations. 

By Jennifer Harper, The Washington Times, August 2, 2018, Pg. A2

It is fashionable in some circles to purge the presence of God from everyday life, whether it’s by banning religious images or language in public places, or media coverage that implies that faith-based anything is not inclusive. Such thinking is not new. In 1966, Time Magazine published an edition titled “Is God Dead?” — suggesting that the faith was wavering, and the U.S. was on a path to secularization.

This has not happened in the 52 years that have passed since then.

“That question proved premature: The U.S. remains a robustly religious country and the most devout of all the rich Western democracies. In fact, Americans pray more often, are more likely to attend weekly religious services and ascribe higher importance to faith in their lives than adults in other wealthy, Western democracies, such as Canada, Australia and most European states,” writes Dalia Fahmy, a senior analyst for the Pew Research Center who examined findings from a massive poll revealing the religious practices of people in 102 nations.

“For instance, more than half of American adults (55 percent) say they pray daily, compared with 25 percent in Canada, 18 percent in Australia and 6 percent in Great Britain. The average European country stands at 22 percent,” Ms. Fahmy says.

“Actually, when it comes to their prayer habits, Americans are more like people in many poorer, developing nations — including South Africa (52 percent), Bangladesh (57 percent) and Bolivia (56 percent) — than people in richer countries. As it turns out, the U.S. is the only country out of 102 examined in the study that has higher-than-average levels of both prayer and wealth. In every other country surveyed with a gross domestic product of more than $30,000 per person, fewer than 40 percent of adults say they pray every day,” says the analyst.


3. Planned Parenthood sues after South Carolina bans Medicaid funds for abortion clinics. 

By Catholic News Agency, August 2, 2018, 12:05 AM

Planned Parenthood has filed a lawsuit challenging a South Carolina executive order barring Medicaid funds from going toward any health services at abortion clinics.

The executive order, issued last month by Gov. Henry McMaster, has drawn support from pro-life advocates.

McMaster’s July 2018 executive order said the state “should not contract with abortion clinics for family planning services.”

It told the state’s Medicaid agency to use money left over from last year’s budget on the state’s family planning program, but deemed abortion clinics and any affiliated physicians or medical practices enrolled in Medicaid to be unqualified for the funds. The agency must terminate these clinics and deny any future enrollment applications from such providers, the order said.


4. Maryland House speaker to push for amendment protecting abortion rights.

By Erin Cox, The Washington Post, August 2, 2018, 6:00 AM

Maryland’s House Speaker Michael E. Busch plans to lead an effort to enshrine a woman’s right to terminate a pregnancy in the state constitution, joining a number of other states attempting to preempt any possible move by the Supreme Court to erode abortion protections.

Busch (D-Anne Arundel) said he will personally introduce and garner support for legislation asking voters to approve a constitutional amendment, likely in the next presidential election. An amendment would mean that even if the Supreme Court overturned its ban on state laws prohibiting abortion, no such legislation could be passed in Maryland.


5. Bishops likely will need more to regain trust on McCarrick case. 

By John L. Allen Jr., Editor, Crux, August 2, 2018

Since news broke about sexual abuse and misconduct charges against now ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick in June, the primary question had been what accountability measures would follow if the charges turned out to have merit. The widespread sense was that Pope Francis would need to set an example, to show that no one in the Catholic system is “untouchable” where child protection is concerned.

The second, and equally immediate, question was which U.S. bishops may have known of the charges against McCarrick, or at least suspected, and what they did with that information when they received it. It’s basically a tripartite inquiry: Who knew? When did they know? What did they do, either at the time or since?

The Vatican, for all intents and purposes, answered the first question on July 28, announcing that Francis had accepted McCarrick’s resignation from the College of Cardinals – an historic first in the United States for any reason, and a first globally for a cardinal facing sex abuse charges. A statement also confirmed that a canonical trial is underway, which, if McCarrick is found guilty, could end in his expulsion from the priesthood.

Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), tried to answer the second question yesterday, but only sort-of, and in a way that’s ultimately unlikely to satisfy demands at the Catholic grassroots to see the bishops take ownership of the situation.

DiNardo issued a four-part statement on the McCarrick situation on Wednesday, the third point of which touched on the accountability issue. Here’s what it said:

“The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops will pursue the many questions surrounding Archbishop McCarrick’s conduct to the full extent of its authority; and where that authority finds its limits, the conference will advocate with those who do have the authority. One way or the other, we are determined to find the truth in this matter.”

As far as it goes, that’s encouraging, to the extent it indicates the bishops are aware the ball’s in their court and are not dislodging responsibility to Rome, or conveniently invoking cooperation with civil authorities to evade their own duty to examine themselves. It’s heartening, for sure, to hear the bishops express determination to get to the truth.

However, the obvious omissions in the DiNardo statement are:

-Any indication of what process the bishops will employ to “pursue the many questions surrounding Archbishop McCarrick’s conduct.”

-Any sense of who will be involved in that probe, and how they were chosen.

-When the probe will get underway, what time period for the work is envisioned, and when the full conference and the Catholic public can expect a report.

Although the Catholic grassroots in America is long since accustomed to fresh outbreaks of scandal, the McCarrick case has hit especially hard for a couple of fairly obvious reasons.

First, he was a cardinal. 

Second, the watchword in commentary on the McCarrick fiasco from the beginning has been “everyone knew.” For most Catholics, the face-value question in response is, “If everyone knew, why didn’t anyone do something until now?”

Answering that question at this stage is primarily the responsibility of the American bishops, not the Vatican or anyone else. To regain credibility, the bishops will need not only to look into it, but to be transparent and accountable for the way in which they do so. Whatever answers they offer will carry the exact same credibility as the process employed to produce them.

As a further point, the bishops probably will need to establish a clear process for reporting allegations against fellow bishops. Right now, the ordinary Catholic knows where to take complaints against priests, but may be flummoxed about where to go when the charge involves a bishop.

Wednesday’s statement is an encouraging start, but a good deal more is likely to be required before anyone is terribly inclined to give the bishops points for trying.


6. US bishops: Sex claims show US cardinal’s ‘moral failure’. 

By Gillian Flaccus, Associated Press, August 1, 2018, 7:34 PM

The president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said Wednesday that sex abuse allegations against former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick dating back decades raise serious questions about how the claims could stay secret for so long as the retired archbishop from Washington, D.C., rose in prestige and power.

Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo said the allegations against his former colleague reveal a “grievous moral failure” and urged anyone who has experienced sexual abuse at the hands of the church to come forward. DiNardo reminded bishops in the United States to take those reports seriously and contact the police when required.

In an open letter Tuesday, a contributor to the conservative Catholic magazine First Things urged Catholics to withhold donations to the U.S. church until an independent investigation determines which U.S. bishops knew about McCarrick’s misdeeds — a “nuclear option” aimed at making church members’ sense of betrayal heard.


7. White House condemns violence in Nicaragua, supports Catholic-led negotiations. 

By Catholic News Agency, August 1, 2018, 1:30 PM

The White House has issued a statement expressing support for the Catholic Church’s diplomatic efforts in Nicaragua and announcing $1.5 million in U.S. funds to bolster human rights organizations and independent media in the country.

“The United States stands with the people of Nicaragua, including members of the Sandinista party, who are calling for democratic reforms and an end to the violence. Free, fair, and transparent elections are the only avenue toward restoring democracy in Nicaragua,” reads the July 30 statement.

“We support the Catholic Church-led National Dialogue process for good faith negotiations,” it continues.

Thousands of Nicaraguans marched in support of the Catholic bishops’ on July 28 after President Ortega questioned their role as mediators after they proposed that he hold early presidential elections to alleviate tensions in the country and not run for office again.


8. An Invitation to the Laity. 

By Christopher Tollefsen, Christopher Tollefsen, a senior fellow of the Witherspoon Institute, is a professor of philosophy at the University of South Carolina and author, with Robert. P. George, of Embryo: A Defense of Human Life, First Things, July 30, 2018, Opinion

On July 28, I sent the letter below to my bishop, the Most Reverend Robert E. Guglielmone of the Diocese of Charleston

I write to explain why I and my family will no longer be contributing to diocesan appeals for financial assistance, and to identify the conditions under which I will once again resume making the requested donations. I hope that many throughout our diocese, and indeed, throughout the country, will pursue a similar path to ours.

The McCarrick scandal has left us more than unsettled, and indeed, more than angry. I speak here not primarily of McCarrick’s own actions, which are disgusting and wicked. Rather, I speak of the behavior of his fellow bishops, who were, at various times dating back at least to 1994, issued complaints, warnings, accusations, and petitions. They did nothing, and McCarrick’s rise to become one of the most prominent and influential American bishops is well known.

These facts force us to conclude that those charged by Our Lord with leading His Church, teaching the faith passed down from His apostles, and shepherding His faithful, have been gravely, grossly negligent. That negligence has had grave consequences for the victims of McCarrick’s abuse; a Church that should have protected Her children, and Her seminarians, instead betrayed them.

So, after prayer and discernment, my family has decided that we will not again contribute to diocesan requests for money until we are convinced by your public witness and actions that you are working to the following ends:

One: that there be established an independently led investigation, whose purpose is to find out which members of the hierarchy knew, or had heard of, McCarrick’s depravity, and yet did nothing.

Two: that every bishop who is judged negligent by this tribunal be removed from office.

Your Excellency, you may well wonder why I am refusing to contribute to your diocesan appeals, when I have no reason to suspect you of participating in this scandalous cover-up. There are two reasons.

The first is that, sadly, we have arrived at a point where it is impossible for members of the laity fully to trust any bishop with whom we are not personally and intimately acquainted.

And this brings me to the second reason. You might well be innocent of this whole mess; you might well have been entirely ignorant of what was going on. I sincerely hope so. And if so, I expect that your response will be similar to mine: You will be zealous for an independent investigation, and ready to see the ranks of the episcopate thinned, perhaps radically, as the results of that investigation become known.

But I expect that most bishops, even the innocent ones, will instead turn to the business of running their own dioceses—a difficult, time-consuming, and often thankless task. They will think that they have insufficient “skin in the game” of a scandal that involves prelates of the major dioceses, movers and shakers of the hierarchy. And so they will do little or nothing, save perhaps repeat the anodyne messages of “concern and accountability” that are the stock and trade of the hierarchy at these times. And nothing will change.

But, Your Excellency, there must be change.

So, for now, my money will go to my parish, and to charities of my choice. I will increase the amount I give in both instances by the amount I used to give to the diocese. And I will hope, and pray, to see clear and public efforts on your part to meet what I hope we both agree is the most pressing and immediate need of the Church we both love.