1. Algeria Honors Catholic Victims of Its ‘Black Decade’.

By Associated Press, The New York Times, December 10, 2018, Pg. A9

A cardinal dispatched by the Vatican to Algeria held an unusual beatification ceremony on Saturday for 19 monks, nuns and other Catholics who were killed during Algeria’s civil war in the 1990s.

It was the first such ceremony in the Muslim world, according to Algeria’s religious affairs minister. It came after Pope Francis recognized all 19 as martyrs in January, paving the way for Saturday’s ceremony in the western Algerian city of Oran. Beatification is a step in the process of being declared a saint.

Cardinal Angelo Becciu, prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, celebrated Saturday’s Mass at the Notre Dame de Santa Cruz basilica as the pope’s special envoy.

Those honored included seven French Trappist monks who were abducted from the monastery of Tibhirine, south of Algiers, in 1996. Soon afterward, their skulls were discovered nearby; their bodies were never found. A radical group was blamed for their beheadings, but some observers have suggested Algeria’s military was responsible.


2. U.S. halts HIV study that was using fetal tissue.

By Amy Goldstein and Lenny Bernstein, The Washington Post, December 10, 2018, Pg. A11

The Trump administration has shut down at least one government-run study that uses fetal tissue implanted into mice even before federal health officials reach a decision on whether to continue such research, which is opposed by antiabortion groups.

The shutdown of the HIV research at the federal lab in Montana, first reportedin Science, was never disclosed publicly by government officials, who have forbidden affected researchers from discussing what happened. But colleagues say they are incensed by the action, which has fanned a controversy that pits the biomedical research community against antiabortion activists and other social conservatives pressing the administration to stop the flow of federal grants and contracts for work involving fetal tissue. Such tissue comes from elective abortions.


3. Avoiding anti-religious decision-making, Why religious freedom in the military is not optional.

By William G. “Jerry” Boykin, The Washington Times, December 10, 2018, Pg. B3, Opinion

As we approach the New Year and an incoming Congress, it bears noting that in the past five years there have been several major legal victories supporting armed services personnel prosecuted for acting consistently with their religious beliefs about marriage. Going forward, military commanders must study these cases involving uniformed believers fighting to live out their faith.

The case studies show that it would behoove all commanders to avoid knee-jerk, anti-religious decision-making. It has no place in our armed forces, and public reversal of a wrongly-made decision is humiliating and, perhaps, career-threatening. But don’t take my word for it. Check the record.

In sum, these cases demonstrate that no member of the armed forces should be compelled to choose between his or her religious beliefs and faithful uniformed service. If a same-sex couple can be accommodated by a service member willing to facilitate them, then a balance can be struck between the parties involved.


4. America’s worst serial killer.

By George F. Will, The Washington Post, December 9, 2018, Pg. A25, Opinion

A word can be worth a thousand pictures. In the movie “Gosnell: The Trial of America’s Biggest Serial Killer,” the mild word “snip” describes what the camera, demonstrating the eloquence of reticence, does not show in gory detail: Kermit Gosnell’s use of scissors to cut the spinal cords of hundreds of babies that survived his late-term abortion procedures.

Directed by actor Nick Searcy (“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” “The Shape of Water”), this gripping true-crime courtroom drama, with dialogue taken from court transcripts and police records, made it onto 670 screens, and earned nearly $4 million, and soon will be available in DVD format through Netflix. This, in spite of impediments from portions of America’s cultural apparatus that are reflexively hostile to examining Gosnell’s career in infanticide.

A major film will receive about 270 media reviews, according to Mark Joseph, chief executive of MJM Entertainment Group. “Gosnell” received 12, even though in the October week it was released it was the top-grossing independent film and cracked the top 10 of all films in theaters. The critics’ boycott of the film continued the journalists’ indifference toward Gosnell’s trial.

No one knows how many — certainly hundreds, probably thousands — spinal cords Gosnell snipped before the 2010 raid on his “clinic.” Law enforcement came looking for illegal drugs. They also found jars of babies’ feet, fetal remains in toilets and milk cartons, and a pervasive smell of cat feces — in a facility that had not been inspected for 17 years. Pennsylvania nail salons receive biennial inspections.


5. On Twitter’s Wings, Prayers Seek a Presidential Audience.

By Alexandra E. Petri, The New York Times, December 9, 2018, Pg. MB8

When she was a high school student in Maryland, Sister Susan Francois got her first job at Kmart. She then requested shifts on Saturdays and Sundays to avoid church. Born and raised Catholic, she was already experiencing doubts about the role of women in the church and in the institution itself. She spent most of the 1990s as an “ex-Catholic,” she said, living in Portland, Ore., where she went to college and worked as a city elections official.

As the millennium approached, however, Sister Susan, now 46, became interested in her Catholic roots again. “I was in this high-powered career, but where I found all my joy in life was through my volunteer work,” she said. She began to see a connection between what was rapidly becoming her social mission and Catholicism. 

So she started to fill her weekends with church again.

In 2005, Sister Susan got in even deeper: She entered the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace religious order on the West Coast. It was around this time, she said, that she noticed other nuns praying for President George W. Bush and then, President Barack Obama. In 2017, two years after she had relocated to the St. Joseph headquarters in Englewood Cliffs, N.J., Sister Susan decided to take her own presidential praying practice to the next level: Twitter.


6. A reality check on expectations for February child abuse summit.

By John L. Allen Jr., Editor, Crux, December 9, 2018

After the Vatican invoked that summit in November in instructing the U.S. bishops to stand down in adopting new accountability measures, however, telling them they need to wait until after February, it was foreordained that American analysts will treat February like Roosevelt and Stalin at Yalta – a high-stakes, history-making exercise.

Before expectations spiral completely out of control, however, it’s important to say this out loud: For all kinds of reasons, this is not going to be Yalta on sex abuse, and to hope that it will be is a fool’s errand.

Let’s lay out the reasons why, and then touch on what would actually count as success.

So, bottom line: Almost by definition, Americans are likely to be frustrated with what may seem the scant results of the February meeting. Things will rise or fall with how nimble the U.S. bishops are about putting together a plan of action that coheres with the indications it provides after it’s over.

Given where the Church stands globally, that’s about all one can realistically hope – and the sad part is, that alone would represent real progress.


7. ’80s Party Girl Now Has a Salon for Conservative Catholics.

By Jason Horowitz, The New York Times, December 8, 2018, Pg. A4

Princess Gloria — once christened “Princess TNT” for her explosive years as a hard partying, art-collecting, punk-haired aristocrat — has grown into the sun queen around which many traditionalist Roman Catholics opposed to Pope Francis orbit. Her Regensburg castle is a potential “Gladiator School” for conservative Catholics on a crusade to preserve church traditions.

Her Roman palace overlooking the ancient forum is a preferred salon for opposition cardinals, bitter bishops and populists like Stephen K. Bannon. Many of them are hoping to use the sex abuse crisis that amounts to the greatest existential threat to the church in centuries to topple the 81-year-old pontiff, who they are convinced is destroying the faith.

She argued that instead of the pope’s emphasis on inclusion, the church needed to honor its laws and doctrines and undergo a spiritual conversion, much like she had undergone when her husband died nearly 30 years ago, to a more missionary and orthodox belief.

The princess sees her responsibility as feeding hundreds of hungry people in her refectory every day and being supportive of increasingly isolated priests. But some of the priests in her court have answered the call of duty by going to war.


8. Battle of wills: Tiny order of French nuns takes on Vatican.

By Nicole Winfield, The Associated Press, December 8, 2018, 9:38 AM

The Vatican has an unusual dilemma on its hands after nearly all the nuns in a tiny French religious order threatened to renounce their vows rather than accept the Holy See’s decision to remove their superior.

The sisters argue that the Vatican commissioners sent to replace their superior general, who is also the niece of the order’s founder, have no understanding of their way of life or spirituality. The church’s conclusion — contained in a summary of its investigation provided this week to The Associated Press — is that the Little Sisters of Marie, Mother of the Redeemer are living “under the tight grip” of an “authoritarian” superior and feel a “serious conflict of loyalty” toward her.

The standoff marks an extraordinary battle of wills between the Vatican hierarchy and the group of 39 nuns, most in their 60s and 70s, who run homes for the aged in rural western and southern France. Their threat to leave comes at a time when the Catholic Church can hardly spare them, with the number of sisters plummeting in Europe and the Americas.


9. Pope Francis has misguided ideas about global poverty.

By Steven W. Mosher, New York Post, December 8, 2018, 9:55 AM, Opinion

Pope Francis last year created the “World Day of the Poor” to call attention to the less fortunate among us. So far so good.

But I was taken aback when he used the occasion of the second “World Day of the Poor” to claim that “the rich few … grow ever fewer and more rich,” while “the cry of the poor daily becomes stronger but heard less.”

Is it true, as the Argentinian pontiff seems to believe, that not only is global poverty increasing but also that income inequality is growing as well?

It is, after all, an essential element of their political creed, used to justify the distribution of wealth between the haves and the have-nots that they intend to carry out using the coercive power of government.

The numbers, however, tell a different tale.

The pope is not an economist, so he should of course be forgiven for believing that everything he learned at the Jesuit seminary he attended a half-century ago is still true. And it should be noted that he comes from a continent — South America — which remains the world’s worst in terms of income inequality. In Argentina, perhaps, the rich may indeed still be getting richer and the poor poorer.

But when you look globally, the future is a lot rosier than Pope Francis’ sermon suggests.


10. 2 Jesuit provinces releases 153 names of accused abusers.

By Jim Salter, The Associated Press, December 7, 2018

Two Roman Catholic Jesuit provinces that cover nearly half the U.S. released the names Friday of more than 150 priests and other ministry leaders who were found to have “credible allegations” of sexual abuse made against them dating to the 1950s.

Jesuits West, which covers 10 western states, said its internal investigation found credible allegations against 111 priests, brothers or priests in training who were connected to it dating back to 1950. No one on the list is involved in public ministry any longer, it said.

Hours earlier, the Jesuits U.S. Central and Southern Province, which covers 13 states along with Puerto Rico and the Central American country of Belize, released the names of 42 men who had ties to the province going back to 1955. It said four are still members of the province but are not active in ministry and live in supervised housing.

Many of the men on the two lists have died, and others have been dismissed of ordination, officials said. Most of the men on the lists were priests.


11. Is the Vatican’s Deal with China a Pyrrhic Victory?

By Grazie Pozo Christie, RealClear Religion, December 7, 2018

Dr. Grazie Pozo Christie specializes in radiology in the Miami area and serves on the advisory board for The Catholic Association.

The Vatican’s warm new relationship with the Chinese government is being hailed as a diplomatic victory by the Pope’s supporters. If it is a victory, I’m very afraid it could very well be a pyrrhic one. If so, it will be due to a naïve and misplaced trust in an authoritarian regime whose ill-will toward the faithful of any religion is growing more fierce each day—Catholicism not excluded.

Perhaps there is nothing so clarifying as seeing oppression in person.

The first thing I saw in China on my visit to adopt my daughter a few years ago robbed me of any illusions I might have had about my child’s birth-country. While walking toward the bus that awaited our group at the Beijing airport, I saw a tiny, elderly beggar woman trying to approach us, seeking alms. Two uniformed policemen stopped her and roughly hustled her around the corner of an adjacent bus. There, they began beating her with their truncheons. I had never seen anyone being beaten before and, as I boarded our bus, I was weeping almost as hard as the poor old lady.

I wish I could somehow replay that scene so that Pope Francis could see it. 

Pope Francis’ message to Chinese Catholics upon the signing of the new agreement is long on reconciliation and cooperation with the communist government. It is, however, short on demands for liberty and mercy for his persecuted faithful, who understand it’s nigh impossible for a good Catholic to also be a good Communist. As if on cue, the Chinese government has shown their bad faith by taking an underground-Church bishop into custody for “indoctrination.” His crime? Refusal to join the CPA out of loyalty to Pope Francis, who elected him in 2016.

The clandestine Church in China feels abandoned, betrayed, and alone. Sadly, they have every reason to feel this way.