1. Pope Seeks End to Death Penalty. 

By Francis X. Rocca, The Wall Street Journal, August 3, 2018, Pg. A8

Pope Francis formally strengthened Catholic Church teaching against capital punishment, categorically prohibiting it as an attack on human dignity and calling for its abolition.

The Vatican announced Thursday that the pope had approved revised language for the Catechism of the Catholic Church, an official compendium of doctrine, to state that the death penalty is “an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person” and that the church is working “with determination for its abolition worldwide.”

Up to now, the church hasn’t entirely ruled out the death penalty if it “is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor,” but noted such cases should be extremely rare.

This is not the first change to the catechism in the direction of less tolerance for capital punishment. The original edition, published in 1992, while preferring “bloodless means” for the protection of human life, accepted as “well-founded the right and duty of legitimate public authority to punish malefactors by means of penalties commensurate with the gravity of the crime, not excluding, in cases of extreme gravity, the death penalty.”

Five years later, Pope John Paul II changed that language to match his reflections in a wide-ranging encyclical on the value of human life. The 1997 revisions have stood until the latest change by Pope Francis.


2. Pope Declares Death Penalty Always Wrong. 

By Elisabetta Povoledo and Laurie Goodstein, The New York Times, August 3, 2018, Pg. A1

Pope Francis has declared the death penalty wrong in all cases, a definitive change in church teaching that is likely to challenge Catholic politicians, judges and officials who have argued that their church was not entirely opposed to capital punishment.

Before, church doctrine accepted the death penalty if it was “the only practicable way” to defend lives, an opening that some Catholics took as license to support capital punishment in many cases.

The pope’s decree is likely to hit hardest in the United States, where a majority of Catholics support the death penalty and the powerful “pro-life movement” has focused almost exclusively on ending abortion — not the death penalty.

Chester L. Gillis, professor of theology at Georgetown University, described Francis’s new teaching on the death penalty as “part of the regular teaching of the church” and “binding.” But that does not mean that Catholics who believe differently will face penalties or be denied the sacraments.

“There are lots of other teachings in the Catholic church that not everybody abides by,” he said. “Is practicing birth control a mortal sin? If true there would be a lot of couples in mortal sin.”

A majority of American Catholics favor capital punishment, 53 percent, while 42 percent oppose it, according to a poll that the Pew Research Center conductedthis spring. Among Americans as a whole, 54 percent are in favor and 39 percent opposed.

“This didn’t come out of nowhere,” said John Thavis, a Vatican expert and author. “John Paul II and Benedict laid the ground work; he’s taking the next logical step.”

The Rev. C. John McCloskey III, an influential teacher and confidant of countless American politicians and civic leaders, has written that the church’s doctrine “does not and never has advocated unqualified abolition of the death penalty.”


3. Pope Paul VI Addressed the Objectification of Women, There are unintended consequences to virtually every change that we make as a society, the continuing “liberation” of women from all forms of “shackles,” including procreation. 

By Henry Scott, The Wall Street Journal, August 3, 2018, Pg. A16, Letters

Ashley McGuire’s “The Controversial Text That Saved Me” (Houses of Worship, July 27) concerning Pope Paul VI’s encyclical “Humanae Vitae” banning contraception deserves thoughtful reflection. My main takeaway from this piece is that there are unintended consequences from virtually every change we make as a society, including the continuing “liberation” of women from all forms of “shackles,” procreation included. The author writes, quoting Pope Paul VI: “A man who grows accustomed to the use of contraceptive methods may forget the reverence due to a woman.” Ms. McGuire adds: “This risks reducing a woman to ‘a mere instrument for the satisfaction of his own desires,’” quoting the encyclical. Our society is increasingly concerned with the “objectification” of women and their mistreatment as “sexual objects,” with good reason. It is important to consider how we got here.

Henry Scott
Potomac, Md.


4. Study: US religious orders overwhelmingly back women deacons. 

By Nicole Winfield, Associated Press, August 2, 2018, 1:07 PM

A new survey has found that the majority of U.S. Catholic religious orders believe women should be allowed to serve as ordained deacons, lending support to an issue currently under study at the Vatican amid pressure for women to be given greater roles in the church.

Seventy-seven percent of both male and female superiors in the U.S. believe such ordination is theoretically possible, and 72 percent think the church should go ahead and authorize it, according to the study released Thursday by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University in Washington.

Only 45 percent, however, believe the church will actually do it, the study found.

From the start of his pontificate, Francis has insisted that women must have a greater role in the life of the church and greater say in its decision-making — while reaffirming that they cannot be priests. He has said repeatedly that he values the “feminine genius,” that there’s no reason why a woman couldn’t head certain Vatican offices and that the church hierarchy would do well to hear more from women’s perspectives.

There are no women among Francis’ senior advisers.


5. Planned Parenthood hangs onto federal grants despite GOP objections. 

By Jessie Hellman, The Hill, August 2, 2018, 4:07 PM

The Trump administration will continue funding Planned Parenthood through a national family planning program, despite arguments from Republicans that it should be excluded from the grants. 

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced Thursdaythe 96 organizations across the U.S. that would receive Title X family planning grants, including 13 Planned Parenthood affiliates.

Most of the organizations that will receive funding also participated in the program last year, though 12 new grantees were added, HHS said. The recipients should be receiving the grants no later than Sept. 1

The GOP opposes any federal money going to Planned Parenthood. While federal law prohibits the use of federal funds for abortions, Republicans argue money is fungible and any given to Planned Parenthood indirectly supports abortion.

HHS did not specify how much the grant awards would be for each organization, leaving open the possibility that Planned Parenthood could receive less funding than in previous years.


6. HHS names family planning grantees amid battle over program. 

By Associated Press, August 2, 2018, 3:56 PM

The Department of Health and Human Services says 96 organizations will get funding under the federal family planning program this year.

Twelve will be new. They include community health centers, state agencies and Planned Parenthood affiliates.

The release of the list Thursday comes amid a major battle over the future of the program, with women’s rights groups and medical societies pushing back on a Trump administration proposal to bar taxpayer-funded clinics from referring women for abortions.