1. Catholic conservatism returns to secular France, By James McAuley, The Washington Post, December 9, 2016, Pg. A12.

For many French voters, François Fillon is more than a leading contender for president in next year’s elections: He is viewed as a crusader in the throes of a holy war.

When Fillon handily won both rounds of France’s conservative primaries last month, he campaigned mostly on a genteel conservatism of economic restructuring and strengthened national security. But in a country that firmly defines itself as “secular” in its constitution, Fillon’s unexpected victory represented an astonishing prospect: the political reawakening of Catholic France after decades of slumber.

“We have a secular state but not a secular society,” said Matthieu Rougé, pastor of Paris’s St. Ferdinand des Ternes Catholic Church and an expert in political theology.

“The majority of the French are recognized as cultural Catholics. They may have studied in a Catholic school, they marry in churches, and they baptize their children. They are Catholic,” he said. “All our streets, the names of our towns and villages — everything is related in some way to the Catholic faith.”

Voters in Chartres said Fillon appealed to them because he defended Catholic virtues that, in their eyes, France has forgotten as it has evolved into an increasingly diverse and cosmopolitan society.

For Steinmetz in Chartres, the church is the last line of defense in France’s war on terrorism.

“With Daesh,” she said, using an alternate name for the Islamic State, “we have to take back our country and guard its Catholic values. Because they want to kill us all.”


2. The First American Priest Martyr, By Fr. Roger Landry, The Anchor, December 9, 2016.

With martyrs, Christians are always faced with a moral paradox, for martyrs are signs of contradiction not only to the people and culture that executed them but also to the Church that venerates them. On the one hand, Christians certainly mourn their deaths and lament what led to them, but on the other we celebrate their heroic faith and the good that God brings out of the evil they endured. Martyrdom is simultaneously shameful and glorious, the martyrs’ blood both a waste and the seed of future Christians.

We are living in a new age of martyrs. More Christians have been killed because of their faith in the past century than in the previous nineteen centuries combined. When we look at what happened in Armenia, Mexico, Spain, and Cambodia, in the Nazi concentration camps and in the communist countries of the former Soviet block, Asia and Cuba, and what’s happening now in parts of the Middle East, Africa, Pakistan and India, the body count is so staggering that many simply cannot fathom it. And even if people escape torture, death and imprisonment, many others suffer various levels of persecution, a type of dry or white martyrdom in which the sacrifice remains supremely costly.

For this new age of crimson, there is a need for models, through whose heroism the rest of us can learn how to live and die for the Good Shepherd who died to give us life to the full, and through whose example we can grasp how to love others with the greatest love of all.

Last Friday, Pope Francis proposed such a hero for Catholics in the United States and Guatemala, recognizing the martyrdom of Father Stanley Rother, a priest of the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City who was assassinated on July 28, 1981 in his rectory in a Guatemalan village.

He’s an incredible witness to Christian courage and priestly love whose beatification will take place sometime next year.


3. Democrats, pro-lifers spar over Planned Parenthood investigation, By Matt Hadro, CNA/EWTN, December 8, 2016, 4:40 PM.

Following Democratic claims that a House panel investigating Planned Parenthood has found no wrongdoing, pro-life leaders have fired back that this assertion is unfounded.

On Monday, Democratic members of the Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives, a House panel charged with investigating the fetal tissue trade, released a 112-page report on the panel.

“Fifteen months and more than $1.5 million taxpayer dollars later, the American people deserve an accurate accounting of what the Select Panel has learned,” they stated.

Among other claims, they said that Planned Parenthood, the abortion provider at the center of the fetal tissue trade controversy, and their partnering tissue procurement companies, had not been found guilty of illegal profits in the transactions.

Last October the Select Investigative Panel was created to “gather information” on abortion clinics and tissue procurement companies and their roles in the trade.

More funding for the panel was approved last week by the House.

“For most of us, it is nothing short of an outrage that Planned Parenthood and other abortion clinics supplement their budgets by selling human fetal tissue from aborted babies,” Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), the panel’s chair, stated Dec. 1.


4. The Supreme Court oral argument that cost Democrats the presidency, By David Bernstein, The Washington Post blog: The Volokh Conspiracy, December 7, 2016, 7:49 PM, Opinion.

The presidential election was so close that many factors were “but-for” causes of Donald Trump’s victory. One that’s been mostly overlooked is Trump’s surprising success with religious voters. According to exit polls, Trump received 81 percent of the white evangelical Christian vote, and Hillary Clinton only 16 percent. Trump did significantly better than the overtly religious Mitt Romney and the overtly evangelical George W. Bush. He likely over-performed among other theologically conservative voters, such as traditionalist Catholics, as well.

Let’s focus on one of these incidents, the time the solicitor general of the United States acknowledged that religious institutions that oppose as a matter of internal policy same-sex marriage may lose their tax exemptions. At oral argument in the Obergefell same-sex marriage case, there was the following colloquy:

Justice Samuel Alito: Well, in the Bob Jones case, the Court held that a college was not entitled to tax­exempt status if it opposed interracial marriage or interracial dating.  So would the same apply to a university or a college if it opposed same­ sex marriage?

Soliticitor General Verrilli: You know, I ­, I don’t  think I can answer that question without knowing more specifics, but it’s certainly going to be an issue. ­ I don’t deny that.  I don’t deny that, Justice Alito.  It is ­­it is going to be an issue.

With the mainstream media busy celebrating the Supreme Court’s ultimate recognition of a right to same-sex marriage, this didn’t get that much attention in mainstream news outlets. But in the course of researching my book, “Lawless,” I noticed that Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr.’s answer was big news in both the conservative blogosphere and in publications catering to religiously traditionalist audiences. The idea that Regent University or Brigham Young University or the local Catholic university or the many hundreds of other religious schools — and potentially other religious organizations — could be put at a severe competitive disadvantage if they refused on theological grounds to extend the same recognition to same-sex couples as to opposite-sex couples struck many as a direct and serious assault on religious liberty.

In short, many religious Christians of a traditionalist bent believed that liberals not only reduce their deeply held beliefs to bigotry, but want to run them out of their jobs, close down their stores and undermine their institutions. When I first posted about this on Facebook, I wrote that I hope liberals really enjoyed running Brendan Eich out of his job and closing down the Sweet Cakes bakery, because it cost them the Supreme Court. I’ll add now that I hope Verrilli enjoyed putting the fear of government into the God-fearing because it cost his party the election.


5. Vatican reiterates that homosexuals shouldn’t be priests, By Inés San Martín, Crux, December 7, 2016.

In a new document on the priesthood, the Vatican’s Congregation for Clergy has reiterated that men with “deeply rooted homosexual tendencies” shouldn’t be admitted to Catholic seminaries and, therefore, shouldn’t become Catholic priests. Much more is also found in the new document.

That position was initially stated by the Congregation for Catholic Education in 2005, but it was re-stated in a document released on Wednesday.

The new document, however, is hardly restricted to the question of gay priests. It deals with much more, from the value of indigenous and immigrant vocations to the importance of inoculating future priests against infection by “clericalism.”

The new text, titled The Gift of the Priestly Vocation, was dated Thursday, December 8, feast of the Immaculate Conception, and a public holiday in Italy. The full text can be found here.

The document says when it comes to gay men who want to enter the seminary, or discover they have “homosexual tendencies” during the formation years, the Church, “while profoundly respecting the persons in question, cannot admit to the seminary or to holy orders those who practice homosexuality, present deep-seated homosexual tendencies or support the so-called ‘gay culture.’”

It also says that the Church can’t overlook the “negative consequences that can derive from the ordination of persons with deep-seated homosexual tendencies.”


6. Creating ‘Silence’, By James Martin, S.J., America Magazine.

Martin Scorsese, the acclaimed filmmaker, has completed a film about 17th-century, Portuguese Jesuits ministering in Japan, based on Shūsaku Endō’s novel Silence. The film, to be released this month, stars Liam Neeson as Father Cristóvão Ferreira, a Jesuit who recants his faith after undergoing torture, and Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver as two younger Jesuits, Fathers Sebastião Rodrigues and Francisco Garupe, respectively, whose mission is to find their mentor. They, too, find themselves submitted to torture and struggle with whether to apostatize.

Early in this interview, Mr. Scorsese spoke about his childhood as a Catholic schoolboy educated by the Sisters of Charity on the Lower East Side of New York, his brief stint at a minor seminary, his love for the church, which he said took him out of the “everyday world,” as well as his early fascination with Maryknoll Missionaries. “I loved what they had to say,” he said about the Maryknolls, “the courage, the testing and the helping.” This interview took place in Mr. Scorsese’s office in New York on Nov. 8 with James Martin, S.J., who served as an adviser to the film. This part of the conversation, edited for length and clarity, focuses on the creation of “Silence” and Mr. Scorsese’s own spiritual journey in making the film.