1. Planned Parenthood goes on the offensive. 

By Paige Winfield Cunningham, The Washington Post, February 14, 2018, 7:41 AM

Planned Parenthood leaders announced yesterday they’re working with lawmakers in more than a dozen states to introduce bills expanding access to abortion or pulling back on existing measures that limit it. They include a bill to repeal Missouri’s 72-hour waiting period before a woman can obtain an abortion; Maine legislation allowing nurse practitioners to prescribe abortion pills and a bill restoring family planning funding that former New Jersey governor Chris Christie (R) had cut from the budget.

“We’re trying to work in every state — even in the toughest places to expand access,” the group’s Executive Vice President Dawn Laguens told reporters. “By the end of this year, we will take this offensive fight to all 50 states.”


2. Pope’s Deal With Beijing Is ‘Putting Wolves Before Your Flock,’ Cardinal Says: Retired Hong Kong prelate rails against Holy See’s plan to unite divided Chinese Catholics. 

By Eva Dou, The Wall Street Journal, February 14, 2018, 5:31 AM

As a priest in the 1980s, Joseph Zen helped revive links between the Vatican and Catholics in China after decades of religious repression by the Communist government. Now, the retired, octogenarian cardinal is trying to block Pope Francis ’ detente with Beijing.

Cardinal Zen calls a Vatican plan to recognize seven bishops appointed by Beijing a betrayal to Chinese Catholics who have refused to recognize the authority of government-backed church organizations and faced persecution for their participation in “underground” communities loyal to the pope.

His blog posts, interviews and a personal appeal in Rome last month to oppose bowing to Beijing on Chinese bishops have put the Vatican on the defensive and stoked debate in Catholic communities in Asia about compromising with an authoritarian government.

Born to Catholic parents in Shanghai in 1932, Zen Ze-kiun grew up during the Chinese Civil War and left shortly before the Communist victory and the beginning of Mao’s 27-year rule. He arrived alone in Hong Kong to join the Catholic Salesian order in 1948.

Taking contentious stands became a familiar role. His fellow Salesians dubbed him “tiger” for his sharp tongue, according to longtime acquaintances.


3. Australian cardinal blames inquiry for sex allegations. 

By Associated Press, February 14, 2018, 5:52 AM

Lawyers for Cardinal George Pell, the most senior Catholic cleric to face sex charges, told an Australian court on Wednesday that the allegations stemmed from publicity surrounding a national inquiry into child abuse three years ago.

Pope Francis’ former finance minister was charged last year with offenses involving multiple complainants in his native Australia. The exact details and nature of the charges have not been disclosed to the public, though police have described them as “historical” sexual assaults, meaning they are alleged to have occurred decades ago.

Pell’s lawyers failed in his application in the Melbourne Magistrates Court on Wednesday to gain access to his alleged victims’ medical records.

The court will hold a preliminary hearing next month to determine whether prosecutors have sufficient evidence to warrant a jury trial. The charges and potential penalties have not been made public.


4. Planned Parenthood announces nationwide push for abortion, birth control legislation. 

By Jessie Hellmann, The Hill, February 13, 2018, 12:40 PM

Planned Parenthood on Tuesday announced a nationwide initiative to expand access to abortion, birth control and reproductive health care. 

Planned Parenthood, its affiliates, state lawmakers and other partners will roll out legislation in more than a dozen states this week that it says will expand access to sexual and reproductive care, with a plan to advance initiatives in all 50 states by the end of the year.

Planned Parenthood framed the new push as a rebuttal to the Trump administration’s “attacks” on women’s health care.


5. This Is How Religious Liberty Really Dies: Cultural pressures are a much greater threat to the faithful than the government. 

By David French, Columnist, National Review, February 13, 2018, 2:08 PM

A female teacher at [Saints Peter and Paul] Catholic school married a woman and got fired. Why should anyone be surprised that a Catholic school follows Catholic teachings? 

The answer’s obvious, of course. National news organizations are populated with people who loathe orthodox Christian teaching on sexual orientation and identity, and stories like this are simply advocacy disguised as reporting. They know news articles ratchet up pressure. They know members of the community respond to negative coverage.

Over the long term, this is the real threat to religious freedom. It’s not, ultimately, the government. It’s the combination of media and cultural pressure — of external and internal anger — that slowly but surely bends church institutions to its will. Talk to thoughtful pastors and religious leaders, even in ruby-red communities, and they’ll concur.

There is a persistent belief among church-goers that a person should be able to get all the benefits of Christian community without any of the doctrines that make religion unpalatable to modern moral fashion. That’s in essence the mission statement of Mainline Protestantism. 

And it simply doesn’t work. The Christian community and Christian service that people love are ultimately inseparable from the entirety of the Christian faith that spawned them. Carve out the doctrines that conflict with modern morals and you gut the faith. When you gut the faith, you ultimately gut the church.

Legal victories preserving our fundamental freedoms are ultimately meaningless if cultural pressures create a dreary intellectual conformity. You can win all the Supreme Court cases you want, but if the faithful don’t maintain the moral courage and strength of conviction to tack into the cultural headwinds, it will all be for naught. 

I don’t know what will happen at Saints Peter and Paul Catholic School. The Catholic Church won’t change its teaching in the face of this controversy, of course, and some institutions do in fact emerge from such tests stronger and more vital. But others fail. Others compromise. And with each compromise, the forces of conformity win, religious “freedom” is further circumscribed, and we learn once again that politics is far downstream from culture.