1. Assisted suicide movement gains newer ground: Activists liken campaign to gay marriage, pro-pot crusades.

By Bradford Richardson, The Washington Times, February 24, 2017, Pg. A8

Supporters of physician-assisted suicide say their efforts compare favorably with movements for same-sex marriage, medical marijuana and other social issues that scored major political victories in short order. 

And that trend will continue to accelerate as more states take up the issue, says Kim Callinan, chief program officer for Compassion & Choices, which has spearheaded aid-in-dying legislation at the local level.

But Maureen Ferguson, senior policy adviser for The Catholic Association, attributed the movement’s success to a lack of education about how physician-assisted suicide harms society’s most vulnerable populations. 

“I think it’s a reflection of how much education needs to be done on this issue, because people do not realize the implications of this on the disabled, on the poor, on the mentally ill and on the depressed,” Ms. Ferguson said. “That’s what it’s a reflection of — that we need more education on this.”

“This is not an issue that cuts along partisan lines,” Ms. Ferguson said. “You have some libertarians who are hands-off, but you have many Democrats who think, ‘Wait a minute, what’s the effect on the vulnerable? What’s the effect on the little guy?’”


2. The Devil and Democracy.

By John J. DiIulio, The Wall Street Journal, February 24, 2017, Pg. A15

[Jesuit Philosopher] John Courtney Murray gets mentioned only once in Charles J. Chaput’s “Strangers in a Strange Land,” but the book is best understood as an erudite and eloquent attempt to update and apply Murray’s teachings to our time—to grasp what it means now to be “living the Catholic faith in a post-Christian world,” as the subtitle has it. The author, the head of the archdiocese of Philadelphia, addresses himself to “everyday Catholics” who “want to think . . . in a mature Catholic spirit of faith.” But his book should be read by serious-minded people of whatever religious, partisan or intellectual inclination.

Archbishop Chaput draws on a phrase from Exodus 2:22 to capture his core concern: that American Catholics who profess all that the Catechism preaches…are now like “foreigners in our own country.”

[A]s Archbishop Chaput is aware, about two-thirds of baptized or “cradle” Catholics in America have either left the faith entirely or are lapsed, a trend that would be even more pronounced were it not for Latino Catholic immigrants. But the soul sickness of our times, along with the falling away from observance, is broader than any one faith. These days, the archbishop writes, “instead of helping the poor, we go shopping. Instead of spending meaningful time with our families and friends, we look for videos on the Internet. We cocoon ourselves in a web of narcotics, from entertainment to self-help gurus to chemicals.”

The fault, he concludes, lies not in our times but in ourselves. The main culprit, for American Catholics, is “our failure to pass along our faith in a compelling way to the generation now taking our place.” He implies that many Catholics who support the church’s teachings are choosing to skirt popular disapproval rather than risk inconvenience or suffer in the slightest way to defend the faith.

A deep problem, Archbishop Chaput observes, is infidelity to the bedrock Catholic teaching that “faith without works is dead” (James 2:26). Many middle-class, ex-urbanized Catholics, for example, complain bitterly when their old urban Catholic schools are closed for lack of funding, … But only a small fraction of local Catholics support these good works with their own time or money.

Part of the answer, he hopes and believes, is for the church to focus its efforts at renewal on Catholic millennials and other young adults who do not want to join the ranks of “self-absorbed consumers”—who do not want to use “noise and distractions” to contend with post-Christian society’s “lack of shared meaning.” Such hope takes real faith.


3. The Importance of the Fatima Centenary.

By Fr. Roger Landry, The Anchor, February 24, 2017

In the last 20 years, Catholics have been blessed to have had more such holy years than at any time in history: 

The absence of an officially declared holy year, however, provides the opportunity for popular devotion to fill the vacuum. I would suggest that 2017 would best be lived as a “Year of Fatima,” a time to celebrate the centenary of the appearances of Our Lady to the three shepherd children in the Cova d’Iria in Portugal, to ponder the messages entrusted by Mary to them, and to imitate the response of Lucy, Francisco and Jacinta.

Over the course of the next several columns, that’s what I will try to do.

But before we get there, I’d like first to address the subject of “private revelations” so that readers will know where apparitions like Fatima fit into the practice of the Catholic faith.

Public revelation demands an act of faith in the God who sent his Son as his incarnate Word, who founded the Church to share his Gospel, who sent the Holy Spirit to guide that Church into all truth and prevent it from erring, ever, on teaching definitively what we are to believe and do. Such faith is different from any form of human trust, opinion or belief, because it is founded on a trust in God on the basis of which we accept what he reveals and build our life on it.

Private revelation, on the other hand, is accepted as credible and probable with what we could call human faith, prudence, or purified common sense. In the case of Fatima, for example, we can examine the “miracle of the sun” that occurred October 13, 1917 and recognize that what happened defies human explanation — as the reports of communist journalists present that day attest — and adds great credibility to the shepherd children who said that Our Lady would give such a sign. 

We would not believe in the Message of Fatima the way we believe in the Eucharist or in the inspiration of Sacred Scripture — on the basis of our faith in God himself — but like we would believe that George Washington really was the first president or that video of an earthquake on the other side of the world testified to real events rather than was doctored.

If, as the Church teaches, definitive revelation — what we really need to know and believe — finished with the completion of the New Testament, why does God permit and engage in private revelation? The Catechism explains, “Even if Revelation is already complete, it has not been made fully explicit; it remains for Christian faith gradually to grasp its full significance over the course of the centuries” (66).


4. Venezuelan Catholics face backlash for opposing government.

By Catholic News Agency, February 23, 2017

After speaking against alleged government misconduct, human rights abuses and delay of free elections, Catholic churches and clergy around Venezuela are facing a wave of protests from pro-government supporters.

After the death of the socialist leader from cancer in 2013 and his succession by current Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro, the country has faced both increases in violence and a number of social and political challenges, including the delay of the country’s regional elections.

The bishops’ strong stance against the current Venezuelan government – and other opinions echoed by priests around the country- has prompted backlash not only in the capital of Caracas, but around the country.


5. 2 ex-Vatican bank execs convicted of minor offenses.

By Associated Press, February 23, 2017, 1:19 PM

A Rome court has convicted two former top managers of the Vatican’s scandal-marred bank for minor violations of anti-money laundering norms.

According to the ANSA news agency, the two were absolved of a more serious charge but were convicted Thursday of omissions in communications involving three small transfers and were sentenced to four months, 10 days each. Their lawyers plan to appeal.

Paolo Cipriani and Massimo Tulli resigned under pressure in 2013 from the Vatican bank — called Institute for Religious Works, or IOR. The bank’s leadership had been under investigation since 2010 for allegedly violating Italy’s anti-money laundering laws involving routine bank transactions.

The ruling comes a day after two other ex-Vatican officials who worked in the Vatican’s patrimony office were put under investigation in a separate market-rigging probe.


6. Trump draws praise for withdrawing transgender bathroom regulation.

By Catholic News Agency, February 23, 2017, 12:27 PM

On Wednesday night, the Trump administration withdrew an Obama-era guidance that had directed schools to allow students to use the bathroom or locker room of the gender they currently identify with, not the facilities of their birth or biological sex.

The guidance had prompted criticism on the grounds of safety and privacy. In dropping it, the Trump administration said the policy had created too much confusion and the issue should be left up to the states.

The guidance in question was an interpretation of Title IX of the Civil Rights Act, which forbids discrimination “on the basis of sex” within “any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”

In its interpretation, the Obama administration said the Title IX anti-discrimination protections include those for gender identity, meaning that transgender students had to have access to facilities of the gender with which they identified, like single-sex locker rooms and bathrooms.

Leading U.S. bishops had expressed serious concerns with the guidance, saying that it “contradicts a basic understanding of human formation so well expressed by Pope Francis: that ‘the young need to be helped to accept their own body as it was created’.”

“Children, youth, and parents in these difficult situations deserve compassion, sensitivity, and respect,” said Bishop Richard Malone of Buffalo and Archbishop George Lucas of Omaha, chairs of the committees on youth and Catholic education, respectively.

“All of these can be expressed without infringing on legitimate concerns about privacy and security on the part of the other young students and parents. The federal regulatory guidance issued on May 13 does not even attempt to achieve this balance.”


7. Cardinal Napier Praises Trump’s Reinstatement of Mexico City Policy: However, some members of the European Parliament are taking steps to set up replacement funding to promote abortion internationally.

By Edward Pentin, National Catholic Register, February 23, 2017

Cardinal Wilfrid Napier said the Trump administration’s recent reinstatement and expansion of the Mexico City Policy shows the “tide is beginning to turn” against the “massacre of the unborn.”

In Feb. 22 comments to the Register, the archbishop of Durban, South Africa, praised the decision to reinstate the policy, which blocks all U.S. funding for non-governmental foreign-aid organizations supporting abortion advice.

He noted the policy has been opposed by those whose minds have been “dulled by the overarching ideology of ‘political correctness’ so mercilessly promoted — no, ‘enforced’ is a better word — by the United Nations and its surrogates.”

One of those “surrogates” is a group of members of the European Parliament who, on Feb. 14, drew up an amendment calling the Mexico City Policy a “direct attack on, and a setback for, gains made for women’s and girls’ rights.” They also called for the setting up of an international fund to improve access to abortion services.

In the past, the policy only applied to organizations that received family-planning funding, but it now applies to organizations that receive funding for global health assistance. The policy has been reinstated by every Republican president since Ronald Reagan and rescinded by Democratic presidents.

A continent highly impacted by the Mexico City Policy is Africa, where abortion providers such as the International Planned Parenthood Federation and Marie Stopes International have been trying to make inroads for many years. Trump’s executive order is therefore “much appreciated in many African countries, where abortion is not legal and where the majority of the people are unequivocally pro-life,” said Obianuju Ekeocha, founder-president of Culture of Life Africa, a group promoting life and family on the continent.

[T]he amendment remains a concern because, although it is not legally binding, it can have political impact by helping parliamentary members exert pressure on national delegations.

Cardinal Napier was skeptical that African political leaders would stand up and openly oppose the actions, due to their high degree of dependency on aid from Europe — a continent, he said, that has fallen away from Christianity and “life-based values.” But he was hopeful that other civil and Church leaders would be voicing their concerns.