1. Happy 80th Birthday, Pope Francis: The pontiff enters his ninth decade shaping the church in ways that will outlive him., By Javier Martinez-Brocal, The Wall Street Journal, December 16, 2016, Pg. A15, Opinion.

Francis’ simple style and bold pronouncements quickly caught the world’s attention when he became pope in 2013, but this can only take him so far. Francis has positioned himself as an outsider who would drain the swamp. If he wants to implement lasting change, he will have to tame the Vatican bureaucracy, known as the Roman Curia.

Francis was expected to continue the bureaucratic reforms Benedict started—and the Argentine has done just that. Benedict tried to simplify the bureaucracy, enhance transparency at the Vatican bank, and create a more international College of Cardinals.

So how does Pope Francis’ record look so far? He remains popular and scandal-free. When secret recordings of the pope discussing Vatican finances in July 2013 leaked, he sounded as committed to reform in private as he does in public, calling the Holy See’s costs “out of control.” Yet it remains an open question whether the Curia will implement his ambitious reforms, such as improving Vatican accounting or eliminating unnecessary positions.

Under Francis, the Vatican looks less like a medieval court and more like a responsive government.

When his papacy ends—by retirement or death—these cultural changes won’t necessarily leave with him. He is swiftly preparing a new generation of church leaders in his mold.

These cardinals have modeled themselves after Francis—and while it’s always unpredictable, they are likely to vote for someone in the Francis mold. The church could still swing to the right after Francis. But even if a future pope doesn’t share all of Francis’ views, he’ll look to Francis’ picks to fill key leadership roles.

Mr. Martínez-Brocal is the director of Rome Reports, a TV news agency that specializes in coverage of the Vatican.


2. Pope to mark Fatima centenary with May 2017 trip to Portugal, By The Associated Press, December 15, 2016, 11:21 AM.

Pope Francis is to visit the Fatima shrine in Portugal next year on the centenary of the date when three shepherd children said the Virgin Mary first appeared to them above an olive tree, Portuguese officials announced Thursday.

The pontiff will be in the small farming town on May 12 and 13, 2017, the Portuguese president’s office announced on its website. The first apparition was May 13, but a midnight Mass and a candlelight procession the previous day usually kick off the annual celebrations.

While the Vatican only confirms papal trips closer to the date, Francis himself has previously said he planned to visit Fatima to mark the anniversary. No further details of the visit were made public.

Francis will be the fourth pope to visit Fatima. The last one was Benedict XVI in 2010, when he also visited the cities of Lisbon and Porto.

Like the shrine at Lourdes, France, Fatima draws huge numbers of visitors — local officials estimate some 6 million — each year. The town is 150 kilometers (90 miles) north of Lisbon.

The Portuguese children said the Virgin Mary appeared to them six times in 1917, between May and October, and confided to them three secrets. The first two foretold the end of World War I and the start of World War II, and the rise and fall of Soviet communism.

In 2000, the Vatican disclosed the long-awaited third secret, describing it as foretelling the 1981 assassination attempt against Pope John Paul II in St. Peter’s Square in Rome. The shooting was on May 13, and John Paul credited the Virgin with saving his life.

The three children were cousins. Two of them, Francisco and Jacinto Marto, died at nine and 11 of pneumonia. The third, Sister Lucia Marto, died in a convent in 2005 at 97.


3. An important criminal referral: Pro-life Republican legislators take aim at Planned Parenthood and its affiliates, By Kelly Riddell, The Washington Times, December 16, 2016, Pg.  B1, Opinion.

This week, Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley referred ABR, along with other companies involved with fetal tissue transfers — StemExpress, and Novogenix Laboratories — and several Planned Parenthood affiliates and the Planned Parenthood Federation of America to the FBI and the Department of Justice for investigation and possible prosecution.

The recommendation was based on findings of a yearlong investigation the committee did into the fetal-tissue market after the Center for Medical Progress (CMP) began releasing a series of undercover videos regarding baby parts trafficking.

The committee’s revelations are not based on the CMP videos, but rather 20,000 pages and documents provided voluntarily by the parties, including contracts, invoices, internal cost calculations, medical standards and guidelines, technician compensation policies and tissue procurement logs.

“I don’t take lightly making a criminal referral. But, the seeming disregard for the law by these entities has been fueled by decades of utter failure by the Justice Department to enforce it,” Mr. Grassley said in a statement this week. “And, unless there is a renewed commitment by everyone involved against commercializing the trade in aborted fetal body parts for profit, then the problem is likely to continue.”

In 1993, the House passed the National Institutes of Health Revitalization Act which was intended to outlaw the commercial market for fetal tissue. During the 14 years since the law’s passage, the Department of Health and Human Services has never conducted a single audit to ensure it was being enforced, and the Justice Department hasn’t initiated a single prosecution.

Mr. Grassley’s committee found that Planned Parenthood had policies in place to ensure its affiliates weren’t breaking the law when it came to their fetal tissue programs, but when it learned its affiliates were not following their guidelines in January 2011, instead of enforcing them, Planned Parenthood decided to turn a blind eye.

It was only in the weeks prior to the CMP’s videos release in 2015, did Planned Parenthood reinstate its guidelines, and add a new section to specifically address fetal tissue payments. These guidelines are ones that Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards repeatedly referred to when she defended her organization to Congress — failing to mention they had only been in place for a few weeks.


4. A New Era for Abortion Law: The progressives can no longer count on the courts., By Alexandra Desanctis, National Review Online, December 16, 2016, 4:00 AM, Opinion

Capitalizing on the shift in momentum brought about by the sweeping Republican victories in November’s elections, Ohio lawmakers last week passed two abortion-restriction bills: an act limiting abortion to before the 20th week of pregnancy (as some scientific studies have found that this is when a fetus can begin to feel pain) and a “heartbeat bill” preventing abortion after a fetal heartbeat can be detected, which usually occurs around the sixth week of pregnancy.

While conservatives rejoice at the possibility of progress toward a greater respect for and protection of unborn human life, progressives mourn what they see as a regression to an age of fewer “rights” for women.

To achieve political ends, progressives turned to the Court for assistance, establishing and perpetuating the notion that justices ought to rule based on their personal ideologies, applying their unique perspective to any given case as if they were a small, unelected legislature. Because progressives — whether presidents through their appointments or justices through a “living Constitution” interpretation — slowly transformed the Court into a body that rules like a mini-democracy, it now can impose the view of its majority rather than determining what the Constitution actually intends.

The question in any given abortion-rights case should not be whether Justice Thomas or Justice Ginsburg is anti- or pro-abortion, nor should such a question be asked of any of Trump’s potential judicial nominees. Rather, justices ought to outline what they believe the role of the Court to be, and, within that view of the Court’s role, what they believe the Constitution maintains about the balance between protecting human life and preserving individual rights.

Since 1973, the Left has relied upon the courts to enforce a progressive view of abortion rights in lieu of convincing the public that such a radical view of abortion is best for society. Progressives will have no one to blame but themselves when permissive abortion “rights” are no longer imposed by the courts and most of the American people don’t mind.


5. The movie Martin Scorsese took 30 years to make, ‘Silence,’ is one of his best, By Jason Guerrasio, Business Insider, December 15, 2016.

Martin Scorsese is no stranger to exploring Christianity in his work. He’s made a career of directing films about the plight of the sinner, from mobsters to a debaucherous Wall Street tycoon, and in between he made the “The Last Temptation of Christ,” an examination of Jesus Christ as he struggles with various unholy desires that was widely protested by religious groups when it was released in 1988.

But no other movie shows his fascination with the Catholic faith as much as his latest, “Silence.” And he has thrown out most of the trademarks he’s leaned on over a 50-year career to create a fascinatingly un-Scorsese movie.

Throughout all of this, Scorsese tells the story in an extremely intimate tone. Wide shots are sparse, as is music. The performances by his actors drive the story. Garfield in particular commands the screen. With an inner monologue used throughout, his internal conflict and highs and lows open a flood of emotion from Garfield. Though Scorsese has been trying to make this movie for close to 30 years, it’s hard to imagine anyone else playing the Rodriguez character.

Another triumph for the film is that Scorsese doesn’t try to make it something it’s not. Though this is not the first time he’s made a period film, in “Silence” he doesn’t try to get cute with using music outside of the era, as he did with the Peter Gabriel songs in “The Last Temptation of Christ,” or dazzle us with fancy camerawork as in “Gangs of New York.” Instead he keeps “Silence” solely focused on the story and it enriches the film greatly — even if it won’t be for everyone.

As the Inquisitor and his men’s mind games and torture increase, Garfield’s performance only becomes more remarkable. Though it’s tough to say he will win an Oscar for the role (as Casey Affleck in “Manchester by the Sea” is equally powerful), he should certainly receive a nomination.

Scorsese should also be recognized. At 74, the auteur has proven that he can still surprise audiences with his storytelling.


6. Church Silence, The Nazis, And the BBC: The BBC and A Question of Truth, By David Alton, December 14, 2016.

In a significant finding, the British Broadcasting Corporation has conceded that in their main evening news bulletin, seen by millions, it falsely described the Church as being ‘silent’ in the face of Nazism and that it has not reported correctly on the Church’s opposition to Hitler.

The finding was made by the BBC’s internal watchdog after Fr.Leo Chamberlain and I jointly lodged a complaint. Fr.Chamberlain, a Benedictine, is a historian and former headmaster of Ampleforth College.

The broadcast was made last July during a visit to Auschwitz by Pope Francis. The reporter stated as fact that “Silence was the response of the Catholic Church when Nazi Germany demonised Jewish people and then attempted to eradicate Jews from Europe”.

After several unsuccessful attempts to seek a correction we felt that we had no choice but to make a formal complaint to the Editorial Complaints Unit (ECU). We presented a dossier of material – all of it publically available to any reporter.

Having studied this, the ECU said that, in their judgment, the news report had not given “ due weight to public statements by successive Popes or the efforts made on the instructions of Pius XII to rescue Jews from Nazi persecution, and perpetuated a view which is at odds with the balance of evidence.”

Ironically, part of the BBC report came from St Maximilian Kolbe’s cell at Auschwitz. St Maximilian, was executed after taking the place of another prisoner. He had been arrested for publishing a denunciation of the Nazis in his magazine, Knight, which had a circulation of around one million people. Hardly silence, then.

One charitable interpretation of the Auschwitz report was that it was a sloppy, lazy, throw-away remark – indicative of the sort of religious illiteracy that can cause so much offence; and part of a blurring between the straightforward reporting of news and the desire to add some melodrama to spice it up. Don’t let facts or truth spoil a good story.

Less charitably, the BBC report may be seen as the simply latest example of a long running attempt to rewrite history.

To put this falsification right the BBC should now commission a documentary examining where the rewriting of history had its genesis.