1. New York State Targets Jewish Schools, Albany bureaucrats want to commandeer our curriculum. We won’t have it. 

By Elya Brudny and Yisroel Reisman, The Wall Street Journal, December 14, 2018, Pg. A15, Houses of Worship
On Nov. 20, Commissioner MaryEllen Elia issued guidance empowering local school boards to evaluate private schools and to vote on our right to continue educating our students.
The state government now requires private schools to offer a specific set of classes more comprehensive than what students in public schools must learn. Our schools must offer 11 courses to students in grades 5 through 8, for a total of seven hours of daily instruction. Public schools have less than six hours a day of prescribed instruction. Private-school teachers will also be required to submit to evaluation by school districts.
At a press conference announcing the new guidelines, a reporter asked Ms. Elia what would happen if a yeshiva didn’t alter its Jewish-studies emphasis to conform to her mandate. She responded that parents “would be notified they need to transfer students” in as little as six weeks. And if they didn’t? “They’d be considered truant, and that’s another whole process that gets triggered.”
Government may have an interest in ensuring that every child receives a sound basic education, but it has no right to commandeer our schools’ curricula. Parents who want to send their children to a school offering a course list devised by the state enroll their children in the local public school. But parents who choose religious education want their children to have a specific moral, ethical and religious framework for life

The new guidance should offend people of all faiths, and others are speaking out. The New York State Council of Catholic School Superintendents recently told Ms. Elia that they reject the guidance and are “directing all diocesan Catholic schools not to participate in any review carried out by local public school officials.” 
2. Court blocks order on birth-control rules. 

By Associated Press, The Washington Post, December 14, 2018, Pg. A3
A divided panel of a federal appeals court in California on Thursday partially upheld a decision blocking a set of rules from the Trump administration that allowed some employers to deny insurance coverage of birth control because of religious or moral reasons.
The rules, issued by the Department of Health and Human Services in October 2017, vastly expanded the range of companies that could opt out of an Affordable Care Act mandate that required employers to cover contraception at no cost for the employee.

While Thursday’s decision would allow enforcement of the rules in many states, a preliminary injunction in a separate case in Pennsylvania remains in effect, meaning the rules are still blocked nationwide.
3. Congress hears debate over fetal tissue research. 

By Amy Goldstein, The Washington Post, December 14, 2018, Pg. A22
House conservatives long opposed to medical research using fetal tissue applied fresh pressure on the Trump administration to end government funding for such work at a hearing Thursday spotlighting antiabortion scientists who contend that alternatives exist.
The hearing before subcommittees of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee grew testy at times over whether cells from sources other than aborted fetuses are as useful as fetal tissue in advancing therapies and possible cures for diseases from HIV to cancer.
“We do not need fetal body parts from aborted babies,” said biochemist Tara Sander Lee, an associate scholar with the Charlotte Lozier Institute, the research arm of the antiabortion Susan B. Anthony List. “We never needed fetal tissue to begin with.”
4. Pastor Accused of ‘Inciting Subversion’ as China Cracks Down on Churches. 

By Ian Johnson, The New York Times, December 14, 2018, Pg. A10
An outspoken Chinese pastor and his wife face up to 15 years in prison after being charged with inciting to subvert state power, a sign that Chinese authorities are intensifying a crackdown on religious groups, one of the most serious in recent decades.
Wang Yi, 45, who runs the independent Early Rain Covenant Church in the southwestern city of Chengdu, was detained last weekend along with over 100 members of his congregation.
As of Thursday, most of the group’s main leaders were still in custody and the police had sealed off the church, which occupies the floor of an office building.
The move against the church comes as the authorities have gradually constricted religious rights and sought to eliminate independent places of worship.
As it has promulgated new rules in recent years, the government has stepped up a campaign against Christianity and Islam, two religions it sees as problematic for their foreign ties, social activism and, especially in the case of Christianity, underground centers of worship.
5. Priest travels US spreading Gospel 1 good deed at a time. 

By John Rogers, The Associated Press, December 14, 2018, 1:18 AM
Father Jim Sichko has a 50-state congregation and a simple mandate from the pope: Go forth and do good deeds.
That’s why the Roman Catholic priest found himself standing by the drive-thru of a popular Hollywood fast-food joint on a recent windy, rain-swept afternoon buying lunch for everyone who stopped by. The next day he’d be at a gas station in Kentucky, topping off people’s tanks. Then it would be on to Arizona where he would — well, he wasn’t quite sure what he’d do there, but he’d think of something.

Sichko is a papal missionary of mercy, a rarified group of 700 from around the world, including several from the United States, who were appointed directly by Pope Francis in celebration of a “Jubilee of Mercy” that began in December 2015 and has since been extended indefinitely.
Missionaries were assigned to travel the world spreading kindness, forgiveness, joy and mercy to everyone they encountered. Some responded by using their newly granted authority from the pope to perform confession and forgiveness of sins basically anywhere at any time. Others took to radio airwaves or retreats to offer messages of joy.
Sichko, a Kentucky-based preacher, came up with an idea different from the others and got his bishop at the Diocese of Lexington to sign off on it: He’d travel his country performing random acts of kindness in all 50 states.
6. Pope to visit Bulgaria, Macedonia in May in busy travel year. 

By The Associated Press, December 13 at 9:45 AM
Pope Francis is travelling in May to the Orthodox countries of Bulgaria and Macedonia, where he will pay tribute to Macedonian-born Mother Teresa, officials said Thursday.
During the May 5-7 trip, Francis will visit the Bulgarian cities of Sofia and Rakovski, followed by a stop in the Macedonian capital Skopje en route home, the Vatican said.
Francis canonized Mother Theresa as St. Theresa of Calcutta in September 2016 for her dedication to serving the poor. She was born Agnese Gonhxe Bojahxiu in Skopje in 1910 and died in Calcutta in 1997, where she spent much of her life.
Macedonia, a small Balkan nation of 2.1 million people, is predominantly Orthodox Christian, with a tiny Catholic community.
7. Court: Trump can’t let companies deny birth control coverage. 

By Sudhin Thanawala, The Associated Press, December 13, 2018, 7:05 PM
A divided U.S. appeals court Thursday blocked rules by the Trump administration that allowed more employers to opt out of providing women with no-cost birth control.
The ruling, however, may be short lived because the administration has adopted new rules on contraceptive coverage that are set to take effect next month and will likely prompt renewed legal challenges.

The majority upheld a preliminary injunction against the rules issued by U.S. District Judge Haywood Gilliam last year. It, however, limited the scope of the injunction, applying it only to the five states in the lawsuit and not the entire country.
Another federal judge also blocked the rules, and her nationwide injunction remains in place.
8. Catholic of the Year: the winner is…

By The Catholic Herald, December 13, 2018
This, then, is our Catholic of the Year. There was a time when we might casually have talked about “the ordinary Catholic”. But increasingly there is no such thing. There is, sadly, an ever-increasing number of baptised members of the Church for whom Catholic identity amounts to little more than an entry on the census form. In contrast, there are Catholics who practise their faith as cheerfully as they can manage, guided by uncorrupted priests, in the face of an unprecedented betrayal by the hierarchy.

There is no space here to list the avalanche of lawsuits descending on the American Church as state and federal agencies begin investigating the complicity of other bishops in clerical sex abuse. The Archdiocese of Santa Fe has already filed for bankruptcy. Others will certainly follow, and not just in the United States. Many experts believe that the situation is even more squalid in parts of Latin America, Africa and Asia. The consequences of such worldwide contagion do not bear thinking about.
So let us think about something else: the heroic witness to Christ by faith-filled priests and lay people in every diocese in the world. We must not forget that 2018 was the year of rosaries on the coast and the Eucharistic congress in Liverpool; a year in which prophetic American Catholics intensified their defence of the unborn and, just last week, the impeccably orthodox Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco celebrated a new “Mass of the Americas” that seeks to heal wounds by renewing the liturgy.
And, every day, two great Catholic charities, Aid to the Church in Need and the Society of St Vincent de Paul, brought blessed relief to persecuted Christians abroad and lonely, pain-wracked Christians at home. Their self-sacrificing heroism is far more typical of hundreds of thousands of Catholics than the moral cowardice of ecclesiastical bureaucrats – and reminds us that, despite the nauseating sins of unscrupulous bishops, Christ and his saints do not sleep.
9. ‘Victory for Victims’: Trump Signs Genocide Relief Act for Iraqi and Syrian Christians. 

By Peter Jesserer Smith, National Catholic Register, December 13, 2018
Just one day after Iraq celebrated the anniversary of its total victory over the Islamic State terrorist army, President Donald Trump signed into law a new bill designed to provide dedicated U.S. support directly to the Christian and Yazidi victims of ISIS’ campaign of genocide.
“The law in itself is an achievement,” Archbishop Bashar Warda of the Chaldean Catholic Diocese of Erbil told the Register, saying it was “a victory for the victims and a recognition of the painful road they walked.”
Faith leaders and representatives of the indigenous Iraqi communities targeted for extinction gathered around President Trump in the White House Oval Office as he signed the Iraq and Syria Genocide Relief and Accountability Act (H.R. 390) into law Dec. 11.
The president passed out replica signing pens to each representative, but gave the pen he personally used to sign the long-awaited legislation to Archbishop Warda himself. Afterward, the archbishop gave the president a blessing in Aramaic, “the language of Jesus,” and recited the Lord’s Prayer.
The bipartisan law, sponsored by Reps. Chris Smith, R-N.J., and Anna Eshoo, D-Calif., will authorize and direct the federal government to fund organizations, including faith-based groups, that are on the ground providing Christian, Yazidi and other survivors targeted by ISIS the resources they need to rebuild their lives and livelihoods.