1. Pope Francis Hopes to Visit Italian Towns Devastated by Earthquake, Aftershocks continue to roll through the region, with more than 1,000 recorded since last Wednesday, By Eric Sylvers and Deborah Ball. The Wall Street Journal, August 29, 2016, Pg. A6.

With little hope of finding survivors, rescue workers still dug through the rubble, some with bare hands, looking for any remaining bodies. As there were many nonresidents in the area at the time of the quake, officials are still not sure they have accounted for everybody.

Wednesday’s 6.2-magnitude quake struck in the Apennine mountains, about 100 miles northeast of Rome, near the town of L’Aquila that was itself largely destroyed by a tremor seven years ago.

During his regular Sunday address at St. Peter’s, Pope Francis said he hopes to visit the afflicted towns “as soon as possible,” and praised the extraordinary efforts of the search-and-rescue crews and volunteers since the earthquake struck before dawn on Wednesday, killing many as they slept.

Priests celebrated Sunday Mass in the tents that are sheltering more than 2,500 people who lost their homes in the earthquake. At one tent in Arquata del Tronto, a badly hit town, a large crucifix was made from ladders and helmets of the rescue crews.


2. Failed Indonesia Church Bomber Wounds Priest, Explosives don’t detonate; attacker strikes priest with ax, By Associated Press. The Wall Street Journal, August 29, 2016, Pg. A7.

A would-be suicide bomber’s explosives failed to detonate in a packed church in western Indonesia during Sunday Mass, and he injured a priest with an ax before being restrained, police said.

The 18-year-old assailant left a bench and ran toward the priest at the altar, but a bomb in his backpack only burned without exploding, said national police spokesman Maj. Gen. Boy Rafli Amar.

Before he was restrained by members of the congregation, the man managed to take an ax from the backpack and attacked the Rev. Albert Pandiangan, causing a slight injury to the 60-year-old priest’s hand, Mr. Amar said.

The motive for the attack at the Roman Catholic St. Yoseph Church in Medan, the capital of North Sumatra province, wasn’t clear, but the perpetrator carried a symbol indicating support for the Islamic State group.


3. Friends, colleagues to remember slain nuns who aided the poor, By Emily Wagster Pettus and Rebecca Santana, Associated Press. The Washington Times, August 29, 2016, Pg. A6.

More than 300 people came to a small church Sunday evening to say farewell to two nuns killed in their Mississippi home, even though more than half had to watch the service called vigil for the deceased on a monitor outside.

A funeral Mass for Sisters Margaret Held and Paula Merrill, both 68, will be celebrated Monday at the cathedral in Jackson, even as authorities continue to investigate the harrowing crime.

About 145 people filled St. Thomas Church in Lexington, where the nuns led Bible study. A monitor was placed outside where another 160 people sat on folding chairs and others stood to watch the service led by Bishop Joseph Kopacz of the Jackson Diocese.

The killing shocked people in the small communities where the women committed their lives to helping the poor.

Rodney Earl Sanders, 46, of Kosciusko, Mississippi, has been arrested and charged in the stabbings. The county sheriff said Sanders confessed to the killings although many people are struggling to comprehend why anyone would want to take the two women’s lives.


4. Obama Mandate on Sex Reassignment Surgery Challenged in Court, By Anne Hendershott. Crisis Magazine, August 29, 2016.

In its continued commitment to infringing upon the rights of religious healthcare providers, the Obama administration mandated last spring that doctors and hospitals may not “deny or limit treatment” to those seeking sex reassignment procedures, even when these procedures run contrary to the provider’s religious beliefs and medical judgement. Last Tuesday, the religious providers fought back. Filing a lawsuit in a Texas federal court, a coalition of religious healthcare providers, represented by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, charged that Obama’s Health and Human Services Administration “overstepped its bounds” by requiring doctors to participate in sex-reassignment procedures—including sex reassignment services and procedures on young children.

 The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas for a reason. It is the same court that temporarily blocked the Obama administration’s overreach on transgender bathrooms in the nation’s public schools. In that case, the judge challenged the Obama administration’s interpretation of Title IX, which prohibits sex discrimination in schools, colleges, and universities. In his injunction temporarily barring the Obama administration from taking action against school districts that do not provide transgendered individuals access to the bathrooms of their choice, Texas Judge Reed O’Connor said that Title IX’s text is “not ambiguous … the law specifically permits educational institutions to provide separate toilets, locker rooms and showers based on sex, provided that the separate facilities are comparable.”


5. For Hillary Clinton and Democrats, a Public Shift Toward ‘God-Talk’, On Religion, By Samuel G. Freedman. The Sunday New York Times, August 28, 2016, Pg. A15.

Four months ago, as Hillary Clinton turned her attention from the Democratic primary toward a fall race against Donald J. Trump, her campaign released a commercial titled “Love and Kindness.”

 Against the soundtrack of a soulful ballad, the advertisement showed Mrs. Clinton in a series of warm embraces, including one with a grieving mother. The onscreen text included the phrase “do all the good we can, in all the ways we can, for all the people we can.”

 Through secular eyes, the advertisement linked Mrs. Clinton to some resolutely uncontroversial concepts — hope, kindness, love, good. In doing so, it sought to soften the perception that she is untrustworthy and unlikable.

 From a theological viewpoint, however, the commercial communicated in profound and coded ways. The music evoked a cappella gospel quartets. The text echoed an axiom of the Methodist Church, Mrs. Clinton’s lifelong denomination. The very title of the spot could well have been “Agape and Chesed.”


6. The Fix, Donald Trump has a massive Catholic problem, By Aaron Blake. Washington Post, August 28, 2016, 8:00 AM.

Much has been made of Donald Trump’s problems with a few voting groups — female voters, blacks and Hispanics, and young voters, in particular. And, to be sure, they are all problems.

But relatively speaking, his biggest problem actually appears to be with a different group: Catholics.

Yes, the man who once feuded with the pope (how soon we forget that actually happened) is cratering among Catholics.

Back in 2012, GOP nominee Mitt Romney lost the Catholic vote by just 2 points, 50 percent to 48 percent. And the GOP has actually won the Catholic vote as recently as 2004 and in 5 of the last 10 presidential elections.

 But Trump trails among Catholics by a huge margin. A new poll from the Public Religion Research Institute released this week shows him down 23 points, 55-32.


7. Three (more) reasons why Mother Teresa’s halo matters, By John L. Allen Jr., Editor. Crux, August 28, 2016.

When Mother Teresa becomes “St. Teresa of Calcutta” on Sept. 4, it’s expected to be the largest public event of Pope Francis’ jubilee Year of Mercy. Her beatification in 2003 drew an estimated 300,000 people to St. Peter’s Square and the surrounding area, and organizers anticipate that turnout to be surpassed this time around.

Over the next few days, we’ll likely hear more than once, on-air and in print, that Francis is “making” Mother Teresa a saint. Theologians will tell you, however, that nothing could be further from the truth – as the old saying goes, God, not popes, makes saints.

Catholic belief holds that if someone is truly a saint, that individual is already in heaven. A canonization is understood as an after-the-fact recognition of what’s already happened.

In other words, canonization is not for the saint, it’s for the rest of us – lifting up a new role model of holiness, and a new friend in heaven to whom the whole Church can pray.


8. Statistical Mischief and “The Catholic Vote”, By Ashley McGuire. Real Clear Religion, August 27, 2016.

Ashley E. McGuire is a Senior Fellow with The Catholic Association.

Much has already been written about “the Catholic vote” in this year’s presidential election. Brace yourself for more—much of it thinly disguised politicking by partisans.

Why the focus on Catholics?

Because Catholics represent the largest religious denomination in the nation and Catholic voters are disproportionately represented in many of the critical “swing” states a presidential candidate needs to win.

But contrary to much of what you might read, because of the very size and diversity of the Catholic population, it would be an error to consider this large group of voters as somehow constituting a “voting bloc”—a bloc somehow broadly receptive to political appeals aimed at Catholics-as-Catholics.


9. Francis says the people have spoken: ‘Two popes are just fine’, By John L. Allen Jr., Editor. Crux, August 27, 2016.

A similar point could be made with St. Pope John Paul II and ecumenism. The pontiff was already firmly committed to closer ties with other Christians by 1999, but when he traveled to overwhelmingly Orthodox Romania that year and was greeted by large crowds enthusiastically chanting unitate! unitate!, meaning “unity,” it helped drive home that this wasn’t just a theological or academic undertaking, but a transcendent popular cause.

The lesson is that crowds sometimes teach things polls can’t, perhaps not so much about what people think, but how passionately they’re thinking it.

That insight comes to mind in light of a new Italian biography of emeritus Pope Benedict XVI to be published Aug. 30 called Servant of God and of Humanity, written by theologian and historian Elio Guerriero.

The book carries an original preface by Pope Francis, which was published Wednesday by the newspaper of the Italian bishops’ conference. In it the pontiff reflects, among other things, on what he sees as the blessing of having Benedict around.


10. Eugenics and Equality Can’t Mix, Aborting babies with detected disabilities is incompatible with equality, By Grazie Pozo Christie. U.S. News, August 26, 2016, 1:50 PM.

Dr. Grazie Pozo Christie specializes in radiology in the Miami area and serves as a senior policy advisor for The Catholic Association.

From the perspective of the disabled and their advocates, we are living in a schizophrenic culture. On the one hand, we are striving to eliminate discrimination and create a society that is welcoming, understanding and inclusive of the largest minority group in the country – a society where having a special need is not a cause for shame and isolation. On the other, we are also a society that goes to great lengths to prevent the birth of the disabled themselves, sharply discriminating against them at their most vulnerable stage.

 I am referring, of course, to pre-natal diagnosis with the intent to abort.

 Fetal ultrasound has opened a window into the mysteries of early human development and has revolutionized the way we think and feel about pregnancy. “Meeting” one’s little girl or boy through the grainy images of the sonogram has become a delightful rite in almost every pregnancy. Unfortunately, it is also a moment when a problem may become apparent: signs of Down’s Syndrome, Dwarfism, Cleft Palate or a limb discrepancy. Many times, the presence of a disability or physical defect, or even the possibility of one, drives the parents to “select” against the child. In other words, they abort and “try again.”


11. In New Mexico, a Flagrant Violation of Law and Fetal Remains, The Editors. National Review Online, August 26, 2016, 12:43 PM.

The series of sting videos released last summer by the Center for Medical Progress exposed the ghoulish reality of America’s abortion industry, but few were interested in admitting it. Planned Parenthood waged an all-fronts defensive campaign, declaring that the videos were “deceptively edited” (they weren’t) and that CMP did not provide any evidence that the nation’s foremost abortion provider or its affiliates broke the law (they did). Planned Parenthood was aided by a conspicuously incurious mainstream media, and they even received the help of prosecutors in Texas and California, who decided to press charges against not those engaged in wrongdoing but those who revealed it.

 In June, to little notice, the House Selective Investigative Panel, set up to probe the accusations made in the CMP videos, sent a letter to New Mexico’s attorney general, Hector Balderas, charging that the University of New Mexico and Southwestern Women’s Options, an Albuquerque abortion clinic, had “systematically violated” state law, and potentially violated federal law governing the transfer of fetal remains, by providing and using the remains of aborted infants for research. Amid the 250-plus pages of documentation included by the panel is the text of procurement notes provided by the university. In May 2012, a lab technician noted that UNM’s Health Science Center “asked clinic for digoxin treated tissue 24–28 weeks for methylation study + because [redacted] wants whole, fixed brains to dissect w/ summer camp students” (emphasis added).