1. Are Liberals Against Marriage?, Debating the decline of wedlock, again, in the shadow of the baby bust.

By Ross Douthat, New York Times Online, December 3, 2019, 6:00 AM, Opinion

The continued plunge in the American birthrate, amid prosperity and low unemployment, has finally made fertility a topic that’s O.K. to worry about even if you aren’t a deep-dyed reactionary.

This is a very good thing, since the question of why the world’s wealthiest societies are failing to reproduce themselves is far too important to be left to weirdo Catholic columnists. The tangle of questions involved doesn’t map neatly onto the existing lines of liberalism and conservatism, and the more the left and center engage with what Anna Louie Sussman’s recent essay in these pages calls “The End of Babies,” the better our chances of averting a P.D. Jamesian destination, a permanent civilizational old age.

My colleague Thomas Edsall entered that debate last week with a column accusing Attorney General Bill Barr and a raft of conservative intellectuals — Patrick Deneen, Mary Eberstadt, Robert George and others — of unjustly portraying liberal elites as somehow anti-marriage and reducing the complex story of the institution’s decline to a simplistic one of secular hedonism run amok. In reality, Edsall argued, liberals tend to have a more nuanced view of why marriage faltered than the right — one that emphasizes the importance of tectonic economic shifts but also acknowledges that “the sexual revolution and the personal autonomy movement had significant costs as well as notable gains.”

On the conservative side, I think there has been a general advance in nuance over the last five or 10 years, with some of the writers my colleague quotes — Deneen especially — stressing the interplay of social and economic liberalism, of left-wing and right-wing forms of individualism, in creating our more atomized, fragmented and post-familial society. (What Deneen calls “liberalism” is not the Democratic Party’s platform or a Yale-Harvard worldview but the general tendencies of liberal modernity — encompassing economics as well as culture in a mirror of the way that Sussman, writing from the left, uses “late capitalism” to encompass secularization as well as deindustrialization and crippling child care costs.)

Barr’s recent speech attacking secular liberals is a somewhat different case: Edsall is right that it represents a more simplistic and partisan take, a view from 1980 that blames social liberalism for family breakdown without much nuance and doesn’t take enough account of social, economic and religious trends since. And Barr speaks for plenty of Republicans, which is why Rubio and Hawley have taken a lot of fire for their attempt at a new pro-family synthesis, in previews of post-Trump debates to come.

But whatever comes, the right’s why-marriage-declined story is presently contested, complicated, interesting and possibly getting closer to the necessarily complex truth.


2. EX-W. VA. bishop: Donation was a gift, Group’s $25,000 check went into Bransfield’s personal bank account.

By Shawn Boburg and Robert O’Harrow Jr., The Washington Post, December 3, 2019, Pg. A2

As Michael J. Bransfield prepared to become West Virginia’s bishop in 2005, a small charitable foundation devoted to Catholic causes cut a $25,000 check. The John A. Quinn Foundation recorded the money in public tax filings as a charitable donation to the Diocese of Wheeling- Charleston, Bransfield’s new home.

Instead, the money went into Bransfield’s personal bank account, Bransfield acknowledged in a recent interview with The Washington Post.

Bransfield stepped down as bishop in September 2018 amid allegations that he misspent millions of dollars in church money and that he harassed or abused young priests and seminarians, triggering a scandal that has resonated far beyond West Virginia. Bransfield has denied the allegations.


3. New law opens McCarrick to child abuse lawsuits, Man claims church’s ‘rot’ reaches Vatican.

By Christopher Vondracek, The Washington Times, December 3, 2019, Pg. A1

Former Washington Archbishop Theodore E. McCarrick is being sued by a man who accuses the defrocked cardinal of sexually abusing him when he was a teenager at a Catholic church in Hackensack, New Jersey, in the 1990s.

The lawsuit is one of several filed under a new state law that gives victims of sex abuse more time to make legal claims. It says Mr. McCarrick benefited from a “speak no evil” attitude among Catholic officials who downplayed or outright dismissed accusations of sexual misconduct by priests for decades. Mr. McCarrick served as archbishop of Newark from 1986 to 2000.

New Jersey’s law easing statute of limitations restrictions on clerical sex abuse lawsuits went into effect Sunday.


4. Mainstream media bungles reporting on conscience rights.

By Melanie Israel, The Washington Times, December 3, 2019, Pg. A4

Three different federal judges recently blocked the Trump administration from implementing a regulation that would give the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) additional resources to enforce more than two dozen laws related to conscience rights. The regulation had been scheduled to go into effect Nov. 22.

A plain reading of the regulation itself — or, if you’re short on time, the HHS fact sheet or press release about the rule — makes clear that federal laws protecting rights of conscience are nothing new.

And that’s what has made mainstream media’s coverage of this issue so disappointing, to put it mildly. They seem almost incapable of treating conscience rights with the reverence they rightly accord other civil-rights laws.

Respecting rights of conscience in the context of health care used to be a bipartisan goal, broadly supported by liberals and conservatives alike. Conscience rights statutes didn’t just magically appear in federal law out of nowhere; they are there because duly elected members of Congress across the political spectrum voted to put them there.

Conscience rights take nothing away from anyone. The freedom to live in accordance with one’s conscience is a fundamental American principle. A robust respect for these rights — both in government and among private citizens — enables us to live and work alongside each other despite differing viewpoints on a host of ethical and moral matters.

By putting conscience rights in scare quotes and misrepresenting an agency rule designed to safeguard this fundamental civil right, the mainstream media demonstrates its hostility toward anyone who dissents.

Melanie Israel is a research associate in The Heritage Foundation’s DeVos Center for Religion and Civil Society.


5. Caving to bullies over religious belief, Chick-fil-A and America’s fight to hold onto religious liberty.

By Kay Coles James, The Washington Times, December 3, 2019, Pg. B3, Opinion

As we head into the Christmas season, religious liberty in America continues to be under attack, and it’s not just about whether people can say “Merry Christmas” in public places. With the recent controversy over Chick-fil-A bowing to pressure to end its financial support of charities the far left has labeled as “anti-gay,” organizations that dare to hold onto certain deeply held religious beliefs will likely be punished for it.

Contrary to the accusations from the left, Christians do not hate gay people; our faith teaches us to love everyone. This issue is not with gay people; it’s with a small group of anti-religious activists who refuse to tolerate other people’s beliefs and seek to destroy anyone who doesn’t agree with their agenda.

The Chick-fil-A incident is just the latest example of why so many of us fight for religious liberty every single day and why it’s critical for all religious people to be engaged in the public square. The ability to work, live and provide services compatible with one’s beliefs is essential for maintaining a free society.

When tolerance for religious beliefs wanes, intolerance for other beliefs follows closely behind. Just as it has become acceptable to discriminate against people for their religious beliefs, we’ve seen how it has also become acceptable to discriminate against — and even attack — people based on their political beliefs, their beliefs on how they raise their children, or any other belief that doesn’t comport with the latest checkbox on the social justice warrior agenda.

A pluralistic society like ours is defined by those with different beliefs and different cultures coexisting side-by-side while still sharing one unifying American identity. A society without that kind of tolerance becomes a society of us-versus-them that devolves into constant conflicts and chaos. Unfortunately, that seems to be the very path the far left wants to force us down. In caving to the bullying of a minority of radical activists, Chick-fil-A has only affirmed that their destructive tactics work, and it guarantees that those tactics will be used again against others.

 Millions of people of faith in this country have loved Chick-fil-A not only for its good food and friendly staff, but because it stood strong for principles in a world that seemed more and more to have little use for them. Many of those same people are now praying that the company’s leadership reconsiders what it has done. Today, I join them in their prayers.

Kay Coles James is president of The Heritage Foundation


6. Across Latin America, Church strives for dialogue amid chaos.

By Inés San Martín, Crux, December 3, 2019

In his return from a trip to Asia last month, Pope Francis was asked about protests in Hong Kong. He answered by saying there are many places today facing social revolt, citing Chile, France, Spain, Nicaragua and “other Latin American countries.”

“It’s something general,” he said. “How does the Holy See handle it? It calls for dialogue, for peace.”

On the ground in each of these countries, the Church already is involved in dialogue – with the success of those efforts often depending not so much on the availability of the hierarchy but its credibility, both in terms of the Vatican and the local bishops.

In some cases, such as Nicaragua, there’s a direct effort by the papal representative, while in others, the Vatican takes a more behind-the-scenes stance while local bishops openly challenge regimes, as in the case of Venezuela.

Here’s a sampling from across Latin America, a region Francis himself said is presently “in flames.”

In mid-November, Cardinal Leopoldo Brenes of Managua said Francis had requested the government of Daniel Ortega and his wife Rosario Murillo to free more than 150 political prisoners the government has held since a social uprising began last year.

“I found out that the Holy Father asked the government for a gesture of good will by listening to the demand of the mothers of the political prisoners,” Brenes said.

“I believe the request from the Holy Father came in a very private way, and hopefully the voice of the Holy Father will be heard and the mothers will have their children back, especially for Christmas,” he added.


7. Pope sends aide to Greek island to bring back 33 migrants.

The Associated Press, December 2, 2019

The Vatican says Pope Francis has dispatched a close aide to the Greek island of Lesbos to bring back 33 asylum-seekers to Rome.

Cardinal Konrad Krajewski, the papal almsgiver, headed Monday to Lesbos.

The Vatican says he’ll return Wednesday with the migrants.


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