1. Why Pope Francis may be meeting with so many tech CEOs, By Jena McGregor. Washington Post Online, August 30, 2016, 7:24 AM.

On Monday, the Bishop of Rome met with one of the high priests of Silicon Valley.

During a trip to Italy, Mark Zuckerberg attended the wedding of a friend, went for a run past the Colosseum, hosted a Q&A session — oh, and met with the Pope. At the Vatican on Monday, the Facebook founder and CEO, along with his wife, Priscilla Chan, presented Pope Francis with a model of his company’s solar-powered drone designed to beam Internet connectivity to less developed parts of the world. They also talked about the philanthropic initiative Zuckerberg runs with Chan.

Pope Francis’s leadership of the church has been noted for its openness and his concern for the needs of the poor. And he appears to recognize the power that tech executives have to help spread ideas, mobilize young Catholics and empower the undeveloped world — but also to shape the tools that can also disrupt how we relate to one another.


2. Religious Freedom Is Not an Indulgence Doled Out by the State, By Mitchell Rocklin & Howard Slugh. National Review Online, August 30, 2016, 4:00 AM.

We Americans have taken religious liberty for granted for most of our history. But if current trends persist, we might not be able to do so for much longer. The future of religious liberty in America is at a precarious crossroads. If we take the right path, we will continue to view religious liberty as a bedrock guarantee of American constitutionalism. If we take the wrong path, we will start to view it as an indulgence that the government can grant or deny as a matter of convenience.

Some Americans have begun to view religious liberty as a privilege that the majority, at its discretion, may bestow upon the minority. This trend is currently most noticeable in the judiciary, as evidenced in four recent cases: Stormans v. Wiesman, Little Sisters of the Poor v. Burwell, Ben-Levi v. Brown, and U.S. v. Sterling.


3. The Miracles That Made Mother Teresa a Saint, By Matthew Bunson. National Catholic Register, August 29, 2016.

The canonization of Mother Teresa on Sept. 4 marks the end of one of the faster causes of canonization in modern times. This is not surprising, given the wide acclaim among the faithful at the time of her passing, on Sept. 5, 1997, that she be proclaimed a saint immediately.

Pope St. John Paul II waived the normally mandatory five-year waiting period to start a cause, but the subsequent process was still very carefully followed, according to the Church’s regulations. That included validating two miracles: one for the beatification and another for canonization.

The diocesan inquiry (the first key step in the process) began in 1999, and the postulator for the cause, Father Brian Kolodiejchuk, a Missionaries of Charity priest, said at the time, “The five-year rule is to ensure that there is a genuine reputation for holiness among the people and that there is not just passing enthusiasm soon after a person dies. But in Mother’s case, there was no need to wait, as her holiness was a matter of worldwide belief.”

Within days of Mother Teresa’s death, possible miracles were reported around the globe. As with all such claims, the Church launched comprehensive and meticulous investigations.


4. Arizona Attorney General Brnovich Defends the First Amendment, By Ken Blackwell. Townhall, August 29, 2016, 12:01 AM.

The Freedom from Religion Foundation folks must have been licking their chops the day they heard about the Arizona Department of Economic Security (DES) director’s emails to his employees. This was going to be easy. The Wisconsin-based foundation would whip up a letter alleging a constitutional violation of the separation of church and state and Arizona officials would fall all over themselves to admonish DES Director Tim Jeffries.

After all, he had used the state email system to send out an email to employees informing them that he would be going to Lourdes as a member of the Order of Malta to serve the “seriously afflicted and dying.” Not only that, but he offered to carry employees’ “special intentions” to Lourdes if they wrote to his assistant. Jeffries even ended his emails with the Latin phrase “Ditat Deus.” (“God Enriches”).    

“We request that you immediately cease promoting religion through DES email,” the foundation’s Madeline Ziegler wrote Jeffries in June, “and do not involve DES employees in any future religious trips you take.”

The foundation wouldn’t even have to go to court. A stout letter would do. Worked all the time.

But not this time. The Freedom from Religion Foundation ran up against two Arizona lawyers with a sharp legal minds and backbones. The August 10th response of Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich and Division Chief Counsel Paul Watkins to Ziegler is a masterwork of First Amendment jurisprudence. They have set out a clear -eyed, common-sense position that should make Arizonans proud – and more free – and serve as a template for officials elsewhere who are facing this kind of anti-religious bullying.


5. Whither the Culture of Life? Birth Rate Hit Its Lowest Level Yet, By Peter Jesserer Smith. National Catholic Register, August 25, 2016.

If the ultimate referendum on Americans’ openness to life is the national birth rate, the latest results are in and they are not pretty. New federal data shows births at their lowest rate on record in the U.S., as the pregnancy rate continues its downward slump since the Great Recession of 2007-2009.

Brad Wilcox, a University of Virginia professor of sociology and director of UVA’s National Marriage Project, told the Register that the Great Recession is still having an effect on U.S. fertility. He added that it has exaggerated a more cautious approach to marriage and family formation.

“In many important respects, it has made them gun-shy about having kids,” he said. In this respect, concerns over the affordability of rentals and single-family homes, and soaring college debt come to bear.

The total fertility rate now hovers around 1.8 children per woman over her lifetime — far below the 2.1 children per woman that demographers say a nation needs to keep its population stable.

However, Wilcox pointed out that when fertility rates crashed in the 1970s (also bad economic years), there were sharp, dramatic cultural changes as well. At the time, sexual mores in the U.S. shifted toward acceptance of cohabitation, contraception, abortion, and no-fault divorce. A similar cultural shift may be at work in the 2010s as well: this time to a more secular, adolescent worldview.

“Younger adults are less religious today than were previous generations, and they’re more hesitant to embrace transitions into adulthood,” he said.