1. Trump’s UN migrant nominee has a record to put his petty critics to shame.

By Ashley McGuire, Ashley McGuire is a senior fellow with The Catholic Association, and the author of Sex Scandal: The Drive to Abolish Male and Female, The Hill, February 21, 2018, 6:00 AM

When the Battle of Mosul was underway, Americans went about their lives as usual, maybe catching an update here and there on CNN or in their local paper. Not Ken Isaacs.

Two months into the dangerous but critical mission to liberate the region from the grip of ISIS, Isaacs left the comfort and safety of home to open a field hospital for wounded Iraqis and Kurds at the fringe of the fighting. There was no religious test at the doors. Within two months of opening, the volunteer hospital served more than 1,000 wounded, Muslim and Christian alike. For his courageous service, he was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award from Health Outreach to the Middle East.

The Battle of Mosul marked a pivotal shift towards success in the global effort to defeat ISIS, a struggle that knows no borders and makes no distinctions between religion and race. It also characterizes the lifelong work of Isaacs, who has spent decades entering disaster and war zones to bind wounds and bring aid to people of all ethnicities and faiths. While Isaacs is a committed Christian and points to his faith as the impetus for his life’s work, he risks his life for all. This too, he would tell you, is an essential part of bearing witness to Christianity’s radical claim that all have inherent dignity in the eyes of God.

And so The Washington Post’s recent editorial arguing that Isaacs, the Trump administration’s nominee to head a billion dollar U.N.- affiliated agency on migrant aid, would be a “narrow-minded” “embarrassment” to the United States seems particularly off-key.

Isaac’s career of global public service is so extensive, it can hardly be contained in one page.

When Sudan was in the middle of its civil war, he also oversaw aid and established hospitals for the people under siege in southern Sudan and the Nuba Mountains. Because of his work there, he has the support of the legendary Dr. Tom Catena, an American missionary doctor whose work has been profiled in The New York Times, The Washington Post, and TIME, among others.

He also led aid response efforts in Nepal after it was struck by deadly earthquakes and aided refugees fleeing the violence in Syria.

These are just a few of the extraordinary missions he has led to bring aid to the most vulnerable, desperate, and embattled people on the planet. None of that seems particularly narrow-minded or embarrassing.

Pope Francis famously exhorted Christians to make the church like a field hospital to the world. Ken Isaacs builds them, literally. Pope Francis asked Christians to go to the margins, to the very ends of the earth. Ken Isaacs goes there, day in and day out. The United Nations’ International Organization for Migration will not find a better man for the job.


2. Vatican sex abuse investigator hospitalized in Chile. 

By Associated Press, February 21, 2018, 8:36 AM

The special envoy sent by Pope Francis to investigate allegations that sex abuse was covered up has been hospitalized in Chile, a church official said Wednesday.

Catholic bishop’s conference spokesman Jaime Coiro said the problems affecting Charles Scicluna aren’t extremely serious, “but neither are we dealing with a very simple ailment.”

He didn’t give details, but said Scicluna had been hospitalized for tests to determine what treatment is needed.


3. Francis canonizing not only Paul VI’s life, but also his legacy. 

By John L. Allen Jr., Editor, Crux, February 21, 2018

Now that Pope Francis has said out loud what many have long suspected, which is that Blessed Pope Paul VI will be declared a saint within the year, it’s worth asking what the current pontiff seems to have picked up from his recent predecessors.

In all honesty, it’s possible to see pieces of each of the previous five popes in Francis.

From John XXII, Francis gets a maverick streak, and a determination to shake up a Church that both popes saw as being excessively closed on itself. From John Paul I, Francis picks up the smile and a populist touch. He’s got John Paul II’s charisma and command of the stage, as well as his relentless drive to make the social and political message of the Church relevant in the here-and-now. And from Benedict, Francis carries forward the root conviction that it’s time to focus on what the Church says “yes” to, not those things to which it says “no.”

That leaves the question of what Francis’s inheritance from Paul VI is, and perhaps the best one-word answer is “bishops” – like Paul VI in his time, Francis seems to want a cohort of pastorally-minded, center-left prelates to steer the Church in a direction perceived as more dialogical and less rigid.

At first blush, it’s often the dissimilarities between Paul and Francis that seem to loom largest.

In terms of substance, of course, each man handled what would become the defining moment of his papacy differently. Fifty years ago, in 1968, Paul VI faced the issue of whether to change the Church’s longstanding opposition to artificial birth control, delivering a strong “no” in his landmark encyclical Humanae Vitae.

Two years ago, Francis took up the question of whether to change another seemingly firm Church teaching, which was a prohibition on divorced and civilly remarried Catholics receiving Communion, offering up a cautious and qualified “yes.”

In terms of background, the two men are also something of a study in contrasts.

In terms of programs of governance, however, Paul VI and Francis do bear striking similarities.

Both popes, in a sense, have seen themselves as the inheritors of the Second Vatican Council (1962-65) – Paul VI in terms of its conclusion and immediate implementation, and Francis in terms of its revival after what he diagnosed as a period of slowdown and consolidation.

Where things get concrete in terms of the similarities between Paul and Francis, however, tends to be in the bishops’ appointments under each man.

Around the world, Paul was looking for pastors – men who weren’t necessarily dogmatic theologians, but who were deeply in touch with the currents of modern culture, and able to project a friendlier and more open face to the world.

Today, there’s a similar crop of center-left, pastoral and progressive minded bishops arising in the U.S. on Francis’s watch, the two best-known examples of which would be Cardinals Blase Cupich in Chicago and Joseph Tobin in Newark, N.J. It remains to be seen in which directions these “Francis bishops” will take the U.S. conference in the years to come, but it’s a safe bet it won’t quite be the same as in the John Paul and Benedict era.

Whether any of this is good or bad for the Church in the long run, obviously, lies in the eye of the beholder. However, it does suggest that when Francis performs the canonization ritual later this year, he won’t just be ratifying the life of Paul VI, but in a certain sense, his legacy as well.


4. As cardinals age, looking ahead to Pope Francis’s next consistory. 

By John L. Allen Jr. and Ines San Martin, Crux, February 21, 2018

Judging by past performance, it would seem Pope Francis enjoys creating new cardinals. So far, he’s held one consistory, the event in which that happens, during each full year of his papacy, which would mean that if things hold to form, there could be one before the end of 2018 as well.

On Tuesday, Cardinal Paolo Romeo, the former archbishop of Palermo, Sicily, turned 80, meaning he’s no longer an “elector,” meaning a cardinal eligible to vote for the next pope. He’s one of six cardinals who will age out between now and June, with the others being:

March 6: Cardinal Francesco Coccopalmerio, Italy
March 17: Cardinal Keith O’Brien of Scotland, United Kingdom (In March 2015, O’Brien lost his right to participate in a conclave, in consistories, and in meetings reserved only to the College of Cardinals.)
March 29: Cardinal Manuel Monteiro de Castro, Portugal
April 1: Cardinal Pierre Nguyễn Văn Nhơn, Vietnam
June 8: Cardinal Angelo Amato, Italy

Those birthdays mean that should Francis choose to hold a consistory sometime over the summer, and, if he elects to retain the limit of 120 cardinal electors established by Blessed Pope Paul VI, he could name six new Princes of the Church.

If he’s going to hold a consistory in 2018, there would be no calendrical motive for waiting, since a cardinal doesn’t cross the age threshold again until Mexican Cardinal Alberto Suárez Inda in January. In theory, that would allow Francis to stage a small consistory around June 29, one of the traditional dates for the event, which is the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul.

Should Francis instead choose to skip 2018 entirely, and wait until October 2019, by that stage he could hold a fairly robust consistory of fifteen red hats, since by that stage nine more cardinals will have aged out:

Cardinal Orlando Beltran Quevedo, Philippines
Cardinal Edwin O’Brien, United States
Cardinal Stanislaw DZiwisz, Poland
Cardinal John Tong Hon, China
Cardinal Sean Baptist Brady, Ireland
Cardinal Laurent Monsengwo Pasiyna, Democratic Republic of Congo
Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski, Poland
Cardinal Edoardo Manichelli, Italy
Cardinal Telephore Placidus Toppo, India

No matter when it happens, the distribution of red hats always alters the balance of power within the College of Cardinals. At the moment, 49 cardinal electors (41 percent) have been named by Pope Francis, 52 (43 percent) appointed by Benedict XVI, and 19 (16 percent) appointed by John Paul II.

Slowly but surely, in other words, Francis is coming closer to having a majority in the College of Cardinals that are his picks.


5. Conscience and Grace: A Lenten Meditation. 

By George Weigel, George Weigel is Distinguished Senior Fellow of Washington, D.C.’s Ethics and Public Policy Center, where he holds the William E. Simon Chair in Catholic Studies, First Things, February 21, 2018

Voices have been heard urging a view of conscience that is curious, even dangerous: Under certain circumstances, conscience may permit or even require that a person choose acts that the Church has consistently taught are intrinsically wrong—such as using artificial means of contraception, or receiving Holy Communion while living the married life in a union that’s not been blessed by the Church.

Those propounding this idea of “conscience” urge us to recognize three things: that the spiritual and moral life is a journey; that when the Church teaches that some things are just wrong and no combination of intentions and consequences can make them right, the Church is proposing an “ideal” to which the most “generous” response may not always be possible; and that confessors and spiritual directors should be compassionate and discerning guides along the often rocky pathways of the moral life.

No reasonable person will contest the last claim. I’m grateful that I’ve been the beneficiary of such thoughtful guidance, and more than once. But the other two claims seem problematic, to put it gently.

If, for example, “conscience” can command me to use artificial means of contraception because of my life circumstances, why couldn’t conscience permit, or even require, that I continue to defraud customers if my business is in debt and my family would suffer from its failure, even as I work my way into a better, more honest financial situation?

The further claim being made here—that God can ask me, through my conscience, to do things that do not cohere with the teaching of the Church—fractures the bonds between God, the Church’s teaching authority, and conscience in perilous ways.

Christ promised to maintain his Church in the truth (John 8:32; John 16:3). Has that promise been broken? The Council of Trent taught that it’s always possible, with the help of God’s grace, to obey the commandments—that God wills our transformation and helps us along the way to holiness. Has that teaching been rescinded? Replaced by a “paradigm shift” into the radical subjectivism that’s emptied most of liberal Protestantism of spiritual and moral ballast? Vatican II taught that within my conscience is “a law inscribed by God.” Is God now telling me that I can violate the truth he has written into my heart?

To suggest that the Church teaches “ideals” that are impossible to live undervalues the power of grace and empties the moral life of the drama built into it by God himself. Lent does not call us to confess that we’ve failed to live up to an unachievable “ideal”; Lent does not call us to be self-exculpatory like the Pharisee in Luke 18:10-14, who went away unjustified. Lent calls us to embrace the humility of the Gospel publican and confess that we have sinned, knowing that God’s mercy can heal what is broken in us if we cooperate with his grace.


6. Vatican investigator meets with Chilean sex abuse victims. 

By Associated Press, February 20, 2018, 4:15 PM

The Vatican’s sex abuse investigator on Tuesday began a series of meetings in Chile with abuse victims and others who have opposed the appointment of a bishop accused of covering up for the country’s most notorious pedophile priest.

The Chilean conference of bishops said that Maltese Archbishop Charles Scicluna will also talk to a delegation of lay Catholics and priests from the Chilean diocese of Osorno during four days of meetings.

The conference did not provide the names of the victims to protect their privacy, but it said Scicluna will be meeting both with people who reached out, as well as those that he demanded to interview.

He also said that he will exclusively be gathering information on Barros.


7. Pro-Life Progress Report: Several More States Seek New Laws Restricting Abortion: The flurry of legislative activity in 2018 follows a year where 19 states adopted 63 new restrictions on abortion, the largest number of new anti-abortion laws in a year since 2013. 

By Brian Fraga, National Catholic Register, February 20, 2018

The pro-life movement appears poised to continue seeing success at the state level as legislatures in at least nine states are considering enacting new laws to regulate and restrict abortion.

The flurry of legislative activity follows a year where 19 states adopted 63 new restrictions on abortion, the largest number of new anti-abortion laws in a year since 2013, according to the Guttmacher Institute, an abortion research firm with historical ties to Planned Parenthood.

ncluding the new pro-life laws adopted in 2017, the pro-abortion-rights Guttmacher Institute reports that states have enacted 401 abortion restrictions since January 2011. The last seven years account for 34% of abortion restrictions enacted by states since the U.S. Supreme Court declared a constitutional right to abortion in its 1973 ruling in Roe v. Wade.

Among the bills under review in several states are measures to ban abortion at 20 weeks of pregnancy — the point when pro-life advocates say unborn children can feel pain in the womb — as well as legislation intended to prohibit abortions on babies diagnosed with Down syndrome and to prevent state Medicaid funds from going to abortion providers.

Forsythe told the Register that about 20 to 30 states now have working pro-life majorities in their legislatures and pro-life governors. He added that the 2016 elections, when Republicans secured majorities in several states, created “the best political conditions in the states for pro-life policies since Roe v. Wade.”

The uncertainty of what the nation’s high court might think of laws, such as the state-level versions of the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, has not stopped pro-life lawmakers in dozens of states from pushing the boundaries of regulating, and, in some cases, restricting, abortion for reasons of protecting fetal life and maternal health.

The Indiana Senate has approved a bill that would require medical providers to report additional information about patients who seek treatment for abortion-related complications. Glenn Tebbe, executive director of the Indiana Catholic Conference, told the Register that with chemical abortions on the rise, more women have had to seek emergency help in his state.

Other states are considering new laws designed to provide information about abortions. In Idaho, a state Senate panel has introduced legislation to give information to women saying that abortions induced by medication can be halted after taking just one of two pills. A legislative committee in the Georgia Legislature has approved a bill to require underage girls seeking abortions to justify why they should be allowed to avoid notifying a parent or guardian.

Some states are looking at enacting new restrictions. The House of Representatives in Mississippi has voted to advance a bill that would make the Magnolia State the only state to ban all abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. The bill, which now goes to the state Senate, allows exceptions for when a woman’s life is in danger or when the unborn child has a severe abnormality.

Meanwhile, a state senate judiciary committee in Iowa has approved legislation to ban abortion once a fetal heartbeat is detected — which can be as early as six weeks — while lawmakers in Tennessee are seeking to ban Medicaid funding from going to abortion providers such as Planned Parenthood.

In Missouri, lawmakers are considering several bills to restrict access to abortion, including legislation to ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy and to prohibit abortions performed on the basis of sex, race and Down syndrome. And in South Carolina, Ingrid Duran, legislative director for the state chapter of the National Right to Life Committee, recently testified on behalf on a pending bill to ban abortion by dismemberment. The bill has already passed the state House of Representatives and has been recommended by a subcommittee for approval by the whole S.C. Senate.

As in Missouri, Duran said measures to ban abortion on the basis of Down syndrome have been introduced in Illinois and Pennsylvania. In Maryland and Virginia, Duran said legislators are looking to amend their states’ fetal homicide laws to extend protection from fetal viability to all stages of pregnancy.

Utah is also considering a bill to prevent doctors from performing abortions on the basis of Down syndrome, which critics are warning is unconstitutional. Last year, Ohio passed a similar law, which is scheduled to take effect March 23. The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a lawsuit arguing that the Ohio law is unconstitutional. The Ohio Catholic bishops have also recently endorsed a bill, passed by the state Senate, to require the humane burial or cremation of unborn children following an abortion.