1. Pope urges status quo, ‘wisdom and prudence’ for Jerusalem.

By Nicole Winfield, Associated Press, December 6, 2017, 5:55 AM

Pope Francis called on Wednesday for the status quo of Jerusalem to be respected and for “wisdom and prudence” to prevail to avoid further conflict, hours before the expected announcement that the United States is recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Francis made the appeal during his weekly audience, after speaking with the Palestinian leader and soon after meeting with a delegation of Palestinian religious and intellectual representatives in a previously scheduled audience.

Francis said he was “profoundly concerned” about recent developments concerning Jerusalem, and declared the city a unique and sacred place for Christians, Jews and Muslims that has a “special vocation for peace.”

He appealed “that everyone respects the status quo of the city,” according to U.N. resolutions.

Francis spoke by telephone on Tuesday with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, after President Donald Trump told Abbas of his decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. The Vatican said the call with Francis was made at Abbas’ initiative.


2. Kennedy seems conflicted in Supreme Court wedding cake case.

By Mark Sherman, Associated Press, December 5, 2017, 7:47 PM

On a sharply divided Supreme Court, the justice in the middle seemed conflicted Tuesday in the court’s high-stakes consideration of a baker who refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple in 2012.

The court’s fault lines were laid bare in a riveting argument that focused equally on baker Jack Phillips’ right to refuse to put his artistic talents to use in support of something in which he disagrees and the Colorado couple’s right to be treated like any other two people who wanted a cake to celebrate their marriage.

Both views were reflected in the questions and comments of Justice Anthony Kennedy, the author of all the court’s major gay-rights decisions and a fierce defender of free speech. The outcome of the case seemed to rest with the 81-year-old justice, who often finds himself with the decisive vote in cases that otherwise divide the court’s conservatives and liberals.

Chief Justice John Roberts pressed both [American Civil Liberties Union’s David] Cole and [Colorado Solicitor General Frederick] Yargeron whether a Roman Catholic legal services agency that provides free aid would have to take up a case involving a same-sex couple despite the religious opposition to gay marriage.

Yes, Cole said, “if they’ve provided the same services to couples who are straight.”

The case, Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, 16-111, will be decided by late June.


3. Pope’s letter to Argentine bishops on ‘Amoris Laetitia’ part of official record.

By Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service, December 5, 2017

Describing them as “authentic magisterium,” Pope Francis ordered the official publication of his letter to a group of Argentine bishops and their guidelines for the interpretation of Amoris Laetitia, his apostolic exhortation on the family.

According to a brief note by Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, Francis wanted his letter and the bishops’ document to be published on the Vatican website and in the “Acta Apostolicae Sedis,” the official record of Vatican documents and acts.

The papal letter, dated Sept. 5, 2016, was written in response to guidelines published by the bishops in the Catholic Church’s Buenos Aires region. Francis said the bishops’ document “explains precisely the meaning of Chapter VIII of ‘Amoris Laetitia.’ There are no other interpretations.”

The eighth chapter of Amoris Laetitia is titled, “Accompanying, Discerning and Integrating Weakness,” and is the most debated chapter of the document. It urges pastors to assist those whose marriages have faltered and help them feel part of the church community. It also outlines a process that could lead divorced and civilly remarried Catholics back to the sacraments.

Some church leaders and theologians have insisted reception of the sacraments is impossible for such couples unless they receive an annulment of their sacramental marriage or abstain from sexual relations with their new partner.

The Buenos Aires document said the path of discernment proposed by Pope Francis “does not necessarily end in the sacraments,” but should, first of all, help the couple recognize their situation, understand church teaching on the permanence of marriage and take steps toward living a more Christian life.

“When feasible,” the guidelines said, divorced and civilly remarried couples should be encouraged to abstain from sexual relations, which would allow them to receive the sacrament of reconciliation and the Eucharist.

While there is no such thing as “unrestricted access to the sacraments,” the bishops said, in some situations, after a thorough process of discernment and examination of the culpability of the individual in the failure of the sacramental marriage, the pope’s exhortation “opens the possibility” to reception of the sacraments.


4. Vatican heads into Moneyval evaluation amid new bank mystery.

By Nicole Winfield, Associated Press, December 5, 2017

The Vatican is heading into a regular review of its efforts to fight money laundering amid a mysterious firing at its bank and ongoing questions about Pope Francis’s ability to reform the Holy See’s finances.

The Council of Europe’s Moneyval committee is expected to issue a progress report Wednesday on the Vatican’s compliance with international norms to fight money-laundering and terror financing, particularly at its bank.

A week before the Moneyval report, the Vatican abruptly fired the bank’s respected deputy manager, Giulio Mattietti, who had been instrumental in getting the Vatican its initial passing grade with Moneyval in 2012.

No reason was given.

While unconnected, the firing followed the mysterious departure of the Vatican’s first-ever auditor general, Libero Milone, in June.

And in another blow to Francis’s financial reform plans, the Vatican’s finance minister, Cardinal George Pell, took a leave of absence in July to face historic sex abuse charges in his native Australia.

The Vatican does have one positive note to show Moneyval: It recently put two former officials of the pope’s pediatric hospital on trial on embezzlement charges, precisely the type of prosecution Moneyval evaluators want to see as evidence of the Vatican’s enforcement of its own laws on financial transparency and accountability.

The former hospital president was convicted of lesser abuse of office charges and sentenced to a one-year suspended sentence; the former hospital treasurer was absolved.


5. I’d make a cake for a same-sex wedding, but Colorado baker Jack Phillips shouldn’t have to.

By Melinda Henneberger, The Kansas City Star, December 5, 2017, 6:19 PM

Personally, I would bake the cake and dance at the wedding, too.

But I don’t see that the state has the right to force Colorado baker Jack Phillips to express something he does not believe by making him design wedding cakes for same-sex couples.

To force Phillips to do that anyway is to compel speech, and the First Amendment we all love until we don’t prohibits that, as the Supreme Court seems likely to rule in the the Masterpiece Cakeshop case it heard on Tuesday.

The proof that even Colorado recognizes that, on some days, anyway, is that in three different instances, it has upheld the right of three other bakers to refuse to bake wedding cakes for Christian couples who wanted “marriage is between a man and a woman” messages on them.

Both sides argue that minority rights are at stake.

But the perceived swing vote, Justice Anthony Kennedy, told those arguing for Colorado that as he saw it, “the state in its position here has been neither tolerant nor respectful of Mr. Phillips’ religious beliefs.” And as he also said, “tolerance is most meaningful when it’s mutual.”