1. Pope’s Visit to Spotlight Myanmar’s Muslim Minority.

By Francis X. Rocca and Myo Myo, The Wall Street Journal, August 29, 2017, Pg. A6

Pope Francis will travel to Myanmar in late November for a visit likely to highlight struggles of the country’s embattled Muslim minority.

The Vatican announced Monday that the pope will visit Myanmar from Nov. 27 to Nov. 30, then travel to neighboring Bangladesh to Dec. 2.

The announcement came a day after the pope, speaking to pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square, decried the “persecution” of “our brothers the Rohingya” in Myanmar.

The Myanmar government has said that more than 100 people have been killed since Friday in battles in the country’s western Rakhine state. An intensified military campaign against militants there has sent thousands of Rohingya fleeing to the border with Bangladesh.

Pope Francis’ Sunday remarks, in which he called for the Muslim ethnic group to be given their “full rights,” was his latest of several statements on behalf of the Rohingya. The pope has taken a special interest in Myanmar, naming the country’s first cardinal in 2015. His November visit will be the first to the country by a pope. The Vatican and Myanmar established diplomatic relations this year.

The government doesn’t consider the Rohingya to be citizens and refers to them as Bengalis, indicating origins in what is now Bangladesh, though many Rohingya have lived in territory in Myanmar for generations.

The predicament of religious and ethnic minorities is a signature theme for Pope Francis, as is the plight of refugees.

During his stay in Bangladesh, a Muslim-majority country, the pope is likely to touch on the country’s reception of Rohingya refugees. He will also draw attention to the situation of Christians there, who represent less than then 1% of the population and a majority of whom belong to tribal ethnic peoples, in a country that is 99% Bengali.


2. No muzzle for the preacher: Atheists seek to force the IRS to censor the message of the pulpit.

By The Washington Times, August 29, 2017, Pg. B2, Editorial

It’s a rare day when the taxman is taken to task for going easy on taxpayers. But self-described “nontheists,” who are behind an unusual campaign to badger believers, march to the beat of the doubter’s drum. Not content to simply give churches they despise a wide berth, they’ve gone to court to force the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to serve as grand inquisitors, to examine a pastor’s sermons for any hint of commentary that could be construed as political. This clearly violates the very principle they claim to honor, the separation of church and state.

The Freedom from Religion Foundation argues that “most social and moral progress has been brought about by persons free from religion,” and is suing President Trump and IRS Commissioner John Koskinen for failing to enforce the Johnson Amendment, which since 1954 has directed churches to vet sermons for political content or risk losing their tax-exempt status.

In May, Mr. Trump signed an executive order on religious liberty that directed the Treasury Department to refrain from taking “any adverse action against any individual, house of worship, or other religious organization on the basis that such individual or organization speaks or has spoken about moral or political issues from a religious perspective.” No individual or church has been prosecuted for violating the Johnson Amendment, making the president’s act largely symbolic and the atheist foundation’s objections a solution in search of a problem.

In its effort to “defend the constitutional separation between religion and government,” the foundation would install IRS agents in the pews on Sunday to listen with pen and paper (or tape recorder) at the ready for any inference or parenthetical aside from the pulpit that might be construed as lending any consolation to a parishioner’s soul.

If religion survived the godless Soviet era, it won’t be dislodged by the doubters, heretics and other unbelievers who seek to use the law to promote their own faith in nothing. Religious faith cannot be imposed by law or decree, and neither can it be stripped from the human heart by decree. Faith is a gift from God, and thus is not at the mercy of man. Donald Trump, for all his faults and shortcomings, understands this when atheists, entitled as they are to their unbelief, do not.


3. Evangelizing the Alt-Right.

By Michael Warren Davis, U.S. Commissioning Editor for Catholic Herald, Crisis Magazine, August 29, 2017

I first came into contact with Alt-Right circles in 2012—long before anyone (least of all me) knew or cared who they were. As now, they were predominantly well-educated, middle-class Millennials. And I studied them closely, because I sensed they were going to grow much, much larger. It was inevitable.

Why? Because they’re cut from the same cloth as the collegiate Leftists they so despise. They were reared in the exact same classrooms, by the exact same teachers, who taught them that race is indeed the foundation of culture. They’re two sides of the same coin.

Think about it. We know that white people sporting dreadlocks risk censure for “appropriating black culture.” Sever a culture from its racial foundations, they warn, and it will wither and die. The Alt-Right simply asks why the same protections shouldn’t be placed on white culture. And the Left will offer no satisfactory answer, because there is none—not according to their logic.

I was taught in those classrooms, too, by the way. It would’ve been easy enough for me to have wound up on either the Alt-Right or the New Left. Why didn’t I? Well, at an early age (and by God’s grace) I happened across some of the books interdicted by the academic establishment. T.S. Eliot, Paul Elmer More, Roger Scruton…

From them, I learned the Christian heresy—the traditionalist refutation of both the Alt-Right and New Left’s common materialism. Culture can’t be fundamentally racial, they explained, because man isn’t fundamentally racial. These materialists can’t fully understand culture, because man isn’t a material creature. He’s a religious being, a soul as well as a body.

The advent of Christianity in the West wasn’t merely a shift in which deities we prayed to: it changed the way we perceived reality. We (quite literally) couldn’t even look at a naked woman the same way again.

The next major shift, as we all learned in high school, occurred in the wake of World War I. Consider Joyce’s Ulysses: another artwork that follows a pagan pattern. But Leopold Bloom is not a Christian Odysseus: he is, rather, an atheistic one. And Ulysses is unanimously regarded as a landmark text in the Western canon for precisely that reason. It demonstrates the titanic rupture that occurred in Western civilization with the advent of psychoanalysis, revolutionary socialism, and all those deicidal ideologies.

(By the way, any Harvard professor or Oxford don worth his salt will agree with every word of that. Only he would take the view that God deserved to die.)

If the Alt-Right took the time to study these artworks in greater detail, they’d realize that “Western civilization” wasn’t some monolith staggering through the millennia before it was waylaid by multiculturalism. True: multiculturalism hasn’t helped. But the rot set in when white supremacism was still the default in Europe and America, and when their empires dominated three-quarters of the globe.

In other words, everything they hate about the decay of our civilization is a product of white ideologues: the aesthetes, utilitarians, pragmatists, existentialists, structuralists, deconstructionists… They made the idea of truth ridiculous, scorned morality, sabotaged form, ravaged beauty, and demonized history. They laughingly took their hammers and pick-axes to God, the fundament of our culture, and the whole artifice came tumbling down.

We might finish by saying that Western civilization was never really meant to be Western. It wasn’t meant to demarcate our home in this world, so much as point to our true home in the next. Like stained glass, it refracts earthly light to illuminate the Sacred.

So, I challenge any Alt-Rightist who’s brave enough to meet the loving gaze of Botticelli’s Venus—to listen, in the quiet of your mind, for the angels who went singing through Mozart’s—to deny your own body, like Waugh, for the satisfaction of your soul. Go to the Christian heart of Western civilization. Then tell me if you can explain everything you see with skull measurements and melanin levels.


4. Blasphemy Laws on the Books in One-Third of Nations-Study.

By Reuters, August 28, 2017, 12:45 PM

Laws prohibiting blasphemy are “astonishingly widespread” worldwide, with many laying down disproportionate punishments ranging from prison sentences to lashings or the death penalty, the lead author of a report on blasphemy said.

Iran, Pakistan, and Yemen score worst, topping a list of 71 countries with laws criminalising views deemed blasphemous, found in all regions, according to a comprehensive report issued this month by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.

The bipartisan U.S. federal commission called for repeal of blasphemy statutes, saying they invited abuse and failed to protect freedoms of religion and expression.

Ireland and Spain had the “best scores”, as their laws order a fine, according to the report which said many European states have blasphemy laws that are rarely invoked.

Some 86 percent of states with blasphemy laws prescribe imprisonment for convicted offenders, it said.


5. Church Extends Prayers, Help to Victims of Hurricane Harvey: ‘May God, the Lord of mercy and compassion, protect all who are still in danger and bring to safety those who are missing,’ Cardinal Daniel DiNardo said. 

By Catholic News Agency, August 28, 2017

The damage done by Hurricane Harvey is a cause for prayer and preparation to help the storm’s victims, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has said.

“As the archbishop of Galveston-Houston, this crisis hits very close to home,” conference president Cardinal Daniel DiNardo said Aug. 27. “In solidarity with my brother bishops in this area of the country, I call on people of faith to pray for all of those who have been impacted by this hurricane, and I ask people of goodwill to stand with the victims and their families.

Cardinal DiNardo said the U.S. bishops’ conference is working closely with local dioceses, Catholic Charities USA and St. Vincent de Paul societies, as well as other relief organizations. Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston and other aid agencies are lending a hand, including the Knights of Columbus. 

The bishops’ conference will share more information about how best to aid hurricane victims. 

The cardinal also prayed in thanksgiving for the first responders who have put their lives at risk.


6. Tillerson Wants to Shed Many U.S. Special Envoy Posts: Secretary of State eyes several posts that were given prominent roles during Obama administration.

By Felicia Schwartz, The Wall Street Journal, August 28, 2017, 7:31 PM

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson sent a letter to Congress on Monday outlining plans to eliminate many of about 70 special U.S. envoys and special representatives at the State Department.

The former Exxon Mobil Corp. chief executive, who has expressed skepticism to aides about the number of envoys at the State Department, proposed keeping the roles of several of them, including those dealing with religious freedom, the fight against the Islamic State extremist group, and North Korea policy.