1. Gómez a living rebuttal of seeing bishops as ‘partisan’ on immigration.

By John L. Allen Jr., Editor, Crux, August 30, 2017

For watchers of the American Catholic scene, Archbishop José Gómez of Los Angeles is an ever more fascinating figure for many reasons, but perhaps the most compelling is that he’s a living, breathing reductio ad absurdum on the notion that bishops are somehow in bed with either the political left or the right when they take positions on matters of public policy.

Gómez, 65, has been in charge in Los Angeles since he took over from retired Cardinal Roger Mahony, and, at the time, the transition was perceived as having an ideological edge. Now 81, Mahony had been in L.A. since 1985, and for much of that span was seen as a leading progressive force in the church, embodying a “Vatican II” vision of things.

Gómez, on the other hand, came with solid conservative credentials. Born in Monterrey, Mexico, and now a naturalized U.S. citizen, while in college Gómez joined Opus Dei, a “personal prelature” in the Catholic Church generally viewed as fairly conservative on both secular politics and church affairs.

(In reality, Opus Dei as such has no political agenda at all, but there’s no point denying that sociologically, at least, most of its membership probably does lean to the right.)

For sure, Gómez never has been anyone’s idea of an ideologue. He’s an accountant by training, and, for the most part, has a very practical, “whatever works” cast of mind. Yet if you asked anybody who knows him which way his instinctive sympathies run, most would point to the right, and that basically remains the case.

Yet today, Gómez has emerged as the most high-profile and determined voice in the American church on what’s usually perceived as a fairly liberal issue: Comprehensive immigration reform, including a path to citizenship for the country’s 11 million undocumented immigrants.

We got further confirmation of the point on Tuesday, when Gómez published an essay in his diocesan publication Angelus insisting on saving protections from deportation for children of immigrants who entered the country as minors, the “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals” program, and laying out the case for a broad immigration reform.

He’s obviously ready to lead. Recently, he launched a slick new website called  TheNextAmerica.org laying out a vision for immigration reform, and providing a range of resources to help make it happen.

Of course, Gómez is hardly the only American bishop who’s been outspoken in defense of immigrants, but he’s the only one who, quite plausibly, could be both the next president of the U.S. bishops’ conference and the country’s first Hispanic cardinal.


2. With Congress mired, states take lead in Planned Parenthood defunding.

By Bradford Richardson, The Washington Times, August 30, 2017, Pg. A1

The effort to defund Planned Parenthood may be stalled at the federal level, but recent legal and legislative victories have given states more power than ever to cut off taxpayer funding to the nation’s largest abortion provider.

South Carolina became just the latest state to make defunding Planned Parenthood a top priority last week, when Republican Gov. Henry McMaster issued an order directing state agencies to stop funding clinics and doctors who perform abortions.

With Republicans in control of 33 governor’s mansions and 32 state legislatures, Catherine Glenn Foster, president and CEO of Americans United for Life, said there are “plenty of different possibilities and avenues” when it comes to defunding Planned Parenthood.

The floodgates for pro-life legislation opened up earlier this year, when Congress overturned an Obama-era regulation that prohibited states from considering whether clinics perform abortions in the allocation of Title X dollars, which are earmarked for family planning services.

The pro-life cause gained another victory earlier this month, when the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Arkansas was allowed to exclude Planned Parenthood from Medicaid funding.

Just a few days later, Mr. McMaster directed federal agencies in South Carolina not to fund abortion providers in the state “via grant, contract, state-administered funds, or any other form.” At least 15 other states are considering legislation that would take Planned Parenthood off of the taxpayer dole.

Previous court rulings, including from the 5th, 7th and 9th Circuit Courts of Appeal, have prevented states from defunding Planned Parenthood in the past.

Ms. Foster, a lawyer who formerly led end-of-life issues at the Alliance Defending Freedom, said the 8th Circuit ruling presents an opportunity for the U.S. Supreme Court to review the case.


3. Pope asks world leaders to listen to ‘cry of the Earth’. 

By Associated Press, August 30, 2017, 5:04 AM

Pope Francis is urging world leaders to “listen to the cry of the Earth and the cry of the poor” and take measures to protect the environment.

Francis made the appeal Wednesday in announcing that he and the spiritual leader of the world’s Orthodox Christians, Patriarch Bartholomew I, would be releasing a joint statement on care for God’s creation on Friday.

In 2015, Francis designated Sept. 1 as the church’s day for prayer for the environment, framing care for the planet as a moral issue.


4. U.S. urges Sudan to protect religious minorities.

By Carol Morello, The Washington Post, August 29, 2017, 3:36 PM

After he met with Christian leaders and attorneys, the Trump administration’s head of humanitarian aid on Tuesday urged Sudan’s government to improve protections for religious minorities and human rights.

Mark Green, the administrator of the United States Agency for International Development, said he had received “assurances” on religious protections from the government in the overwhelmingly Sunni Muslim country, though he offered no details of his discussions on the issue with Prime Minister Bakri Hassan Saleh and Foreign Minister Ibrahim Ghandour.

“This is a conversation that will take place,” he told reporters after meeting with Bakri and Ghandour, “ … to prepare ourselves for a decision coming in early October.”

But Green insisted talks on religious freedoms and human rights are not linked to conditions the United States demands Sudan meet before an Oct. 12deadline for deciding whether to permanently lift decades-old sanctions against the country. President Barack Obama outlined the conditions when he temporarily suspended sanctions in January. They include more humanitarian access, cooperation on counterterrorism, and steps to address domestic conflicts peacefully.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson would like to apply more pressure on Sudan to improve its record on human rights and religious freedoms, which he has singled out for criticism in the past. Leery of appearing to move the goal post after Sudan has already started to make progress on the original set of conditions, U.S. officials are increasingly raising the issue in the context of future actions expected if Khartoum hopes to improve relations with Washington.

According to the State Department’s latest religious freedom report, churches in Sudan have been demolished over land disputes, permits for new churches have been denied, and church leaders have been arrested. Proselytizing can be considered evidence of the crime of apostasy.


5. As Sudan Seeks Sanctions Relief, U.S. Presses Religious Freedom. 

By Reuters, August 29, 2017, 6:00 PM

The United States has raised the issue of religious freedom during talks about easing sanctions on Sudan, the new head of the U.S. Agency for International Development said in Sudan on Tuesday.

Newly appointed head of the agency Mark Green held the talks with senior Sudanese officials as the U.S. government weighs whether to ease or extend the economic sanctions, a decision that must be made by Oct. 12.

“We have asked questions and … have received assurances,” Green told reporters after a meeting with Sudanese Prime Minister Bakri Hassan Saleh.

While human rights and religious freedom are not conditions for the permanent lifting of some Sudan sanctions, the Trump administration is increasingly raising them as a concern as it seeks to advance relations with Khartoum, which has been under U.S. sanctions for 20 years.

Recently during the unveiling of the State Department’s latest religious freedom report, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called out Sudan for arresting or intimidating Christian clergy and church members, and for demolishing churches and trying to close church schools.

A decision on the sanctions was delayed for six months to give Sudan more time to make progress on key demands and to give the new administration of U.S. President Donald Trump time to settle in.

Lifting them would be a major turnaround for the government of President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, who once played host to Osama bin Laden and is wanted by the International Criminal Court on charges of orchestrating genocide in Darfur.


6. Twin Cities Archdiocese Clashes With Abuse Victims in Bankruptcy Court: Gridlock still dominates efforts to compensate victims and guide the archdiocese out of chapter 11.

By Tom Corrigan, The Wall Street Journal, August 29, 2017, 9:21 PM

A years long impasse between the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis and several hundred clergy sexual abuse victims has left the fate of the archdiocese largely in the hands of a Minnesota bankruptcy judge.

At a hearing Tuesday in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Minneapolis, Judge Robert Kressel listened to arguments on competing chapter 11 exit plans from both victims, who are creditors in the bankruptcy, and the archdiocese, wading into a host of thorny legal questions that other bankrupt dioceses have been able to avoid or to resolve consensually.

The bankruptcy case can be traced to Minnesota’s Child Victims Act, which lifted the statute of limitations for sexual-abuse cases in the state for three years, leading to a flood of lawsuits against the archdiocese and its parishes. Filing for chapter 11 froze lawsuits and provided breathing room for the archdiocese to work out a plan to compensate victims who had filed claims against the estate.

Since seeking bankruptcy protection in January 2015, the archdiocese, led by Archbishop Bernard Hebda, has raised a total of $156 million, mostly from settlements with insurance carriers, to fund compensation for abuse victims. The archdiocese says its plan is both fair to victims and ensures its survival.

Lawyers representing sexual abuse victims say the archdiocese has many more assets than it is willing to make available to pay more than 400 people who claim they were sexually abused by the archdiocese’s clergy as children. Their plan would force the archdiocese to contribute much more by borrowing money and seeking donations.

The archdiocese says the bankruptcy-exit plan drafted by abuse victims violates the First Amendment as well as other federal laws protecting religious practices. If approved, the abuse victims’ plan would leave the archdiocese insolvent, its lawyers said, undermining its Constitutionally protected free exercise of religion, as well as the religious freedom of all nearby Catholics.

Judge Kressel has the power to approve either plan or to reject both of them. If he were to approve the archdiocese’s plan over victims’ objections—what is known as a “cram-down” in bankruptcy parlance—it would be a first time a court approved a diocesan chapter 11 plan that didn’t have the backing of victims. All other such bankruptcy cases have ultimately ended with a settlement.


7. L.A. Archbishop: ‘Deportation alone is not an immigration policy’.

By Crux, August 29, 2017

As a Sept. 5 deadline looms for President Donald Trump to either cancel a program providing relief from deportation for children of undocumented immigrants or face a lawsuit by 10 state attorneys general, Archbishop José Gómez of Los Angeles on Tuesday said eliminating the protection would be “tragic” and that “deportation alone is not an immigration policy.”

In an essay for Angelus, the publication of the Los Angeles archdiocese, Gomez strongly defended the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA), adopted in 2012 under the Obama administration, which protects roughly 800,000 people brought into the United States as children by undocumented immigrants.

In his Angelus essay, Gómez argues that the DACA program is simply one step toward a broader overhaul of what he calls America’s “broken” immigration system.

He offered three core principles for immigration reform:

Security: “We need to secure our borders and establish an orderly and fair system for verifying who can enter our country and how long they can stay. We also need a noninvasive way to keep track of people once they enter this country.”

Visa reform: “The best border ‘wall’ is a well-functioning visa system. We need a system that enables us to welcome workers with the skills we need to meet the realities of the global economy. That means ensuring we are granting enough visas for agricultural and construction workers, for service workers and unskilled labor; for hi-tech, medicine and other education-intensive industries. We also need a system for bringing in non-ministerial religious workers who provide critical services in many areas.”

The undocumented: “What to do about the 11 million undocumented persons living among us is the most complicated and controversial aspect of reform. It does not need to be. There is broad public support for granting them a generous path to regularizing their status and even citizenship — provided they meet certain requirements, such as learning English, paying some fines and holding a job that pays taxes.