1. Old and Young Diverge on Values, Poll shows patriotism, religion, having children rate lower for more recent generations.

By Chad Day, The Wall Street Journal, August 26, 2019, Pg. A4

The values that Americans say define the national character are changing, as younger generations rate patriotism, religion and having children as less important to them than did young people two decades ago, a new Wall Street Journal/ NBC News survey finds.

The poll is the latest sign of difficulties the 2020 presidential candidates will likely face in crafting a unifying message for a country divided over personal principles and views of an increasingly diverse society.

When the Journal/NBC News survey asked Americans 21 years ago to say which values were most important to them, strong majorities picked the principles of hard work, patriotism, commitment to religion and the goal of having children.

Today, hard work remains atop the list, but the shares of Americans listing the other three values have fallen substantially, driven by changing priorities of people under age 50. Some 61% in the new survey cited patriotism as very important to them, down 9 percentage points from 1998, while 50% cited religion, down 12 points. Some 43% placed a high value on having children, down 16 points from 1998.


2. A blow to women’s health, Thousands will pay the price for the administration’s victory over Planned Parenthood.

The Washington Post, August 25, 2019, Pg. A26, Editorial

The Trump administration just won a victory over Planned Parenthood. 

Planned Parenthood announced this month that it was leaving the federal government’s Title X program, which pays for family planning services for low-income Americans. As many as 1.6 million women and girls who currently rely on Planned Parenthood for things such as birth control pills and health screenings could be affected. 

To some observers, Planned Parenthood’s decision to leave the program is yet more evidence that the organization values a pro-abortion agenda more than it does the essential health-care services it provides to so many women and girls.  

Congress should overturn the Trump administration’s new rule, and soon — before too many clinics, mobile health centers and other women’s health providers face severe financial problems.


3. Case of papal aide captures risks of ‘weaponizing’ sex abuse charges.

By John L. Allen Jr., Crux, August 25, 2019

In other words, what one might call the “weaponization” of clerical sexual abuse charges as part of the wars of culture in Catholicism is nothing new. Decisions to lodge such charges or to make them public, as well as whether people are inclined to believe or reject them, often are tied up with politics, try as reasonable souls might to remain objective.

This comes to mind in light of a recent controversy surrounding Venezuelan Archbishop Edgar Peña Parra, the “substitute,” or number three official, in the Vatican’s Secretariat of State. He was appointed to that role by Pope Francis last year, and it’s a key one – the substitute, who’s responsible for the Vatican’s daily workflow, is the only person, including the Cardinal Secretary of State, who can simply walk in on the pope unannounced.

When Peña Parra was appointed a year ago, the Italian newsmagazine L’Espresso published a letter suggesting negative reports about him as a seminarian in Venezuela, but they mostly concerned his sexual orientation and didn’t clearly suggest abuse.

The other shoe waiting to drop is this: If someone subject to ecclesiastical discipline is shown to have deliberately brought a false charge, or to have been reckless in voicing rumors without due regard for the truth – whether the motives were political, personal, financial, or anything else – there would be consequences for that too, also imposed through a transparent and objective judicial process.

Also so far as we know, no such process has been initiated with Viganò.

Perhaps the idea that justice could ever truly be blind always has been a bit utopian. When it comes to sexual abuse, however, at least we ought to be able to make sure it doesn’t have a party preference.


4. On narratives about popes and allowing oneself to be surprised.

By John L. Allen Jr., Crux, August 24, 2019

This Wednesday happened to be the feast of St. Pius X, who served as pope from 1903 to 1914 and whose primary claim to fame was unleashing an “anti-modernist” purge in the Catholic Church, the targets of which were a loosely defined network of Biblical scholars, theologians and others trying, in various ways, to reconcile the faith with science and modern thought.

Pius X issued an encyclical in 1907, Pascendi Dominici Gregis, which was more or less the charter document of the campaign, describing “modernism” as “the synthesis of all heresies.” He also imposed an “anti-modernist oath” on all clergy that lasted until 1967.

Here’s what makes this interesting: If you run a Google search using the keywords “Pope Francis” and “modernism,” you’ll get more than a half-million results, most of them accusing Francis of being a modernist himself.

In his time, Pope emeritus Benedict XVI also had a very strong narrative, and, in media terms, a highly negative one. He was seen as an archconservative, aloof, cold, and imperious, sort of the Darth Vader of organized religion. Francis, by way of contrast, has long been a media darling and still draws largely positive coverage, in part because once media organizations have made up their minds about something, they can be remarkably resistant to reconsidering it.

In the abstract, one might think that because the media scorned Benedict and embraces Francis, that ought to make a big difference in how the two popes have been received. Ironically, however, one could argue that it’s actually had the exact same effect for both, which is to render them “controversial.”

What gets lost in the shuffle, most of the time, is the complexity of things.

In all honesty, Francis’s papacy may be closer in spirit to that of St. Paul VI than either St. John Paul II or Benedict XVI, but that hardly puts him on the far left of the Church. Benedict, meanwhile, never was the Blue Meanie of popular imagination, and certainly didn’t revive any anti-modernist putsch in the eight years he was in charge.

In other words, when the media makes someone a star, they usually also make that person a one-dimensional cardboard cutout of themselves. Nothing to be done about that, really – except, perhaps, once in a while, to allow oneself to be surprised.


5. Pennsylvania House wins appeal in atheist prayer-policy suit.

By Marc Levy, The Associated Press, August 23, 2019

A federal appeals court reversed a lower court decision and ruled Friday that the Pennsylvania House of Representatives’ policy of barring atheists from delivering invocations does not violate the U.S. Constitution.

Friday’s decision by the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upholds the Pennsylvania House’s policy of limiting prayers at the start of legislative sessions to guest chaplains who believe in God or a divine or higher power.

It reverses last year’s decision by a district judge, who sided with the atheists, agnostics, freethinkers and humanists who sued. The judge ruled that the restrictions violated constitutional prohibitions on making laws that establish a religion.

The appeals court’s 2-1 majority said the policy did not violate the establishment clause of the First Amendment because it fits within the “historical tradition of legislative prayer” and counts as government speech that is protected from a free speech or equal protection challenge.

The majority opinion also cited a June decision in the U.S. Supreme Court that allowed a World War I memorial in the shape of a 40-foot-tall cross to continue to stand on public land in Maryland.


6. Minnesota filmmakers’ lawsuit over gay weddings reinstated.

The Associated Press, August 23, 2019, 5:44 PM

A federal appeals court on Friday reinstated a lawsuit filed by two Minnesota filmmakers who want the right to refuse to film same-sex weddings, saying that videos are a form of speech with constitutional protections under the First Amendment

Carl and Angel Larsen, who run a Christian business called Telescope MediaGroup in St. Cloud, sued the state’s human rights commissioner in 2016, saying Minnesota’s public accommodation law would result in steep fines and jail time if they offered services promoting only their vision of marriage.

A federal judge dismissed the case two years ago. But a three-judge panel of the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed that decision Friday. The panel sent the case back to the lower court with instructions to consider a preliminary injunction that would allow the Larsens to operate their business without fear of being found in violation of Minnesota’s Human Rights Act, the Star Tribune reported.

Carl Larsen issued a statement saying he and his wife “serve everyone. We just can’t produce films promoting every message.”

“We are thankful the court recognized that government officials can’t force religious believers to violate their beliefs to pursue their passion,” Larsen said. “This is a win for everyone, regardless of your beliefs.”


7. Printer who nixed gay pride shirt goes to Ky. Supreme Court.

The Associated Press, August 23, 2019

A Kentucky print shop owner who refused to make a gay pride T-shirt argued before the Kentucky Supreme Court that he shouldn’t be compelled to promote messages that go against his religious beliefs.

Blaine Adamson, owner of Hands-On Originals in Lexington, declined a T-shirt order from Lexington’s Gay and Lesbian Services Organization for the city’s 2012 Gay Pride Festival. The design had the text “Lexington Pride Festival” wrapped around the number five, celebrating the event’s fifth year.

The city’s Human Rights Commission said Adamson’s refusal violated its gay-rights fairness ordinance.

Adamson said after the hearing with the high court that the T-shirt he was asked to print “goes against my conscience.”

“I will work with any person, no matter who they are and no matter what their belief systems are,” Adamson said. “But when I’m presented with a message that conflicts with my faith, that’s just something I cannot print, that’s the line for me.”


8. New West Virginia bishop addresses scandals head-on at installation Mass.

Catholic News Agency, August 23, 2019, 4:43 PM

After nearly a year without a bishop, due to the scandal-ridden former Bishop Michael Bransfield, the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston in West Virginia has a new shepherd, who was installed at a Mass yesterday on the feast of the Queenship of Mary.

Hundreds of Catholics, hopeful for a fresh start, came from throughout the diocese to fill the Cathedral of St. Joseph in Wheeling for the 2+ hour Mass and glimpse their new leader, Bishop Mark Brennan. Thousands more tuned in to the event via a Facebook live stream posted by the diocese.

“It’s a new beginning. We hope it’s a new beginning,” Joe Herrick, a Catholic who attended the Mass, told a local Fox News affiliate.

“We’re very hopeful for the future. I’m really praying Bishop Brennan will be able to lead us and mend the flock together so we can be one.”

Brennan, who gave the homily, did not hesitate to address the tumultuous year that both the diocese and the universal Church have experienced.


9. Hong Kong Catholics Join the March for Freedom.

National Catholic Resigster, August 23, 2019, Editorial

Hong Kong Catholics have played an important role in the massive protests that have overtaken the city nearly every weekend since mid-June. At the height of the protests, crowds swelled to an estimated 2 million people, and violence erupted. Catholics have been at the forefront of the efforts to keep the protests peaceful, while also seeking to make the voice of the Church heard in the streets and in the halls of Chinese power.

Demonstrators first gathered more than four months ago to march against proposed legislation that could lead to the extradition of Hong Kong citizens to mainland China. Such a step by the communist government in Beijing is seen by many as an aggressive move that erodes the freedoms Hong Kong has been afforded since 1997, when the former British colony became a “special administrative region” of the People’s Republic of China.

Now, five years later, the new extradition bill put forward by the city’s pro-Beijing government, called the Fugitive Offenders and Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Legislation (Amendment) Bill 2019, threatens to curb Hong Kong’s independent legal system. The proposed measure would increase the number of countries to which extradition might apply, including mainland China. Critics warn that political dissidents or anyone deemed a danger to the government might be extradited to the mainland and subjected to a legal system with few rights for the accused.

Any new law that raises the specter of extradition from Hong Kong’s autonomous justice system to mainland China must concern the city’s 580,000 Catholics. Catholics and other Christians recognize what is at stake, knowing as they do the terrible situation facing all Christians, Catholics especially, on the mainland. In many provinces they face the demolition of churches and laws forbidding minor children from entering churches.


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