1. Judge Blocks Rules Allowing Opt-Out On Birth Control.

By Michelle Hackman, The Wall Street Journal, January 15, 2019, Pg. A4

A federal judge temporarily blocked a revised set of Trump administration rules allowing employers with religious or moral objections to opt out of providingtheir workers with health insurance that covers birth control.

U.S. District Judge Wendy Beetlestone on Monday halted implementation of the rules nationwide as several lawsuits contesting their legality proceed.

The rules, issued in November by the Department of Health and Human Services, would have exempted a broad swath of employers from an Affordable Care Act mandate requiring employers to offer contraceptive health coverage at no cost to the employee.

In response to court challenges by some Catholic employers who object on religious grounds to most forms of birth control, as well as other religious employers with specific objections to emergency contraception, Obama health officials created a workaround, so that if an employer objected to providing contraception coverage, female workers could get it directly from insurers.

Religiously affiliated employers, however, considered that insufficient because the insurance plans they sponsored were still being used as a vehicle for providing birth-control coverage. 


2. Priest was a luminary before fall from grace.

By Joe Heim, The Washington Post, January 15, 2019, Pg. B1

When the Rev. C. John McCloskey returned to his hometown of Washington in 1998 at age 44, he had a mission. As the newly appointed director of the Catholic Information Center, he wanted to transform it from a sleepy operation downtown to a vibrant spiritual and intellectual hub. He wanted to communicate his enthusiasm for his faith and bring others to it. And he wanted to do this, not just for ordinary Catholics, but for the capital’s movers and shakers, Catholic or not.

But what no one envisioned was his rapid fall just five years after arriving in Washington for reasons that weren’t disclosed until last week.
At his peak, McCloskey was a central figure in political Washington.

A woman who had gone to him in 2002 for spiritual guidance told The Washington Post that the popular prelate had victimized her. On several occasions during and after private spiritual counseling sessions in his office to discuss her troubled marriage, he put his hands on her hips and pressed himself against her, kissed her hair and caressed her, the woman said.

The revelation about McCloskey’s actions and the reason he was sent away stunned many who knew him at the height of his powers in the capital.


3. Court decisions pause new contraceptive rules.

By Amy Goldstein, The Washington Post, January 15, 2019, Pg. A2

A federal judge in Pennsylvania stepped in at the last moment to pause Trump administration rules that would restrict the ability of some women to get birth control at no charge because their employers object on religious or moral grounds.

U.S. District Judge Wendy Beetlestone issued a nationwide preliminary injunction Monday afternoon, the same day the new policy was to take effect. Her ruling came less than 24 hours after a federal district court judge in California issued a more limited stay covering 13 states and the District of Columbia.

The ACA, the sprawling 2010 health-care law pushed through by a Democratic Congress, says that people should be insured for preventive services without paying out-of-pocket fees — and that women’s health-care services must be included. Under the Obama administration’s interpretation of the law, all Food and Drug Administration-approved forms of contraception have been covered since 2012.

The dispute centers on the issue of “religious liberty” — an animating cause for social conservatives who are part of President Trump’s political base. The question is the extent to which the government should carve out exceptions for churches, religious groups and nonreligious employers that object to birth control coverage based on their beliefs.

The Obama administration had narrow exceptions for churches and religiously affiliated organizations and create d a system of “accommodations,” or workarounds, in which a third-party insurer would cover birth control even if the employer did not. Trump health officials widened the circumstances under which employers could claim exemptions.

The new rules under Trump allow objections to covering birth control on moral, as well as religious grounds. They broaden the range of employers able to claim such objections to include essentially all nongovernmental workplaces, from small businesses to Fortune 500 companies. And they give the employer the choice of whether to permit a workaround accommodation.


4. Applying liberal dog whistles to judicial nominations, Why religious convictions must not disqualify someone for a position on the bench.

By Grazie Pozo Christie, The Washington Times, January 15, 2019, Pg. B4, Opinion
Grazie Pozo Christie is a radiologist and mother of five. She is senior policy adviser at The Catholic Association.

The religious beliefs of nominees have suddenly become fair game in the judicial confirmation process. Consider the frosty line of questioning Sens. Kamala Harris and Mazie Hirono recently leveled at a federal judicial nominee.

In a questionnaire for federal court nominee Brian Buescher, Ms. Harris pointed out that, “Since 1993, [he has] been a member of the Knights of Columbus.” This membership leads her to ask Buescher: “Were you aware that the Knights of Columbus opposed a woman’s right to choose when you joined the organization?” And based on his membership with the Knights, she wondered whether he believed that abortion is “the killing of the innocent on a massive scale”?

Ms. Hirono went a step farther and asked Mr. Buescher whether he plans, if confirmed, to “end his membership with [the Knights of Columbus]” to “avoid any appearance of bias.”

Make no mistake: These questions weren’t about Mr. Buescher’s membership with the Knights of Columbus; they were about his belief in the Catholic Church and its teachings. 

What is any reasonable Catholic or person of faith supposed to make of these questions? They are supposed to be intimidated because the questions amount to a sign that reads, “Catholics Need Not Apply.” But religious tests as a prerequisite to public service are prohibited by the Constitution that both Sen. Harris and Sen. Hirono have sworn to uphold.

All of this would be less worrying if these two senators were outliers. Unfortunately, they represent a larger trend among Democratic senators questioning judicial nominees. Last year, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, California Democrat, criticized Amy Coney Barrett for her Catholic beliefs. “When you read your speeches, the conclusion one draws is that the dogma lives loudly within you, and that’s of concern when you come to big issues that large numbers of people have fought for years in this country,” she said, referring to abortion law.

Sens. Feinstein, Harris and Hirono need to stop using the judicial nomination process to blow a dog whistle for far left groups who want keep anyone who may disagree with them about abortion out of power. Shame on the senators — they should know better. They should understand that someone’s religious convictions do not disqualify them for a place on the bench.


5. Case of Opus Dei priest raises fresh questions about clerical abuse crisis.

By Christopher White, Crux, January 15, 2019

Opus Dei has a reputation as perhaps the most buttoned-down, by-the-book group in the Catholic Church, so when the Washington Post reported last week that it had paid nearly a million dollars to settle a sexual misconduct allegation against one of its most prominent priests, it set off shockwaves and raised new questions about the Church’s response to the clerical abuse crisis.

From his post at the influential Catholic Information Center (CIC) on K Street in the early 2000s, Father C.J. McCloskey was responsible for bringing some of the country’s most prominent conservatives into the Catholic Church, among them now Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback; Larry Kudlow, who currently serves as the Director of the National Economic Council; former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich; and one-time Supreme Court nominee Judge Robert Bork.

Fallout from the previously undisclosed settlement over misconduct with a woman he was counseling in 2002 has raised new questions about McCloskey’s past and Opus Dei’s handling of the case, and also has shed new light on the ongoing challenges of the U.S. Church’s efforts to respond to sexual abuse.

At a time when dioceses throughout the country are reckoning with past cases and the uptick of disclosures of priests accused of abuse have skyrocketed, particularly in light of this summer’s Pennsylvania grand jury report which chronicled seven decades of abuse within the state’s six Catholic dioceses, Cafardi observed that for religious orders and movements like Opus Dei, “I don’t think we’ve fully heard from them.”


6. Church Envoy Begs McCarrick to Repent as Abuse Verdict Nears.

By The Associated Press, January 14, 2019

The retired Vatican diplomat who accused Pope Francis of turning a blind eye to the alleged sexual misconduct of former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick is begging the American to publicly repent for his crimes for the good of the Catholic Church.

Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano wrote a letter to McCarrick that was published Monday on an Italian blog, Vigano’s way of communicating after he went into hiding following his bombshell accusations against the pope in August.

In the letter, Vigano noted the Vatican is expected to shortly deliver its verdict against McCarrick after gathering testimony from at least three men who accused him of misconduct.

Francis has never responded to Vigano’s claims, but a top Vatican cardinal, Marc Ouellet, tried to shoot them down. Ouellet urged Vigano himself to repent, for having launched such an unprecedented attack against the pope.


7. Wuerl denies prior denials denied knowledge of McCarrick seminarian abuse.

By JD Flynn, Catholic News Agency, January 14, 2019, 10:45 AM

Cardinal Donald Wuerl told Washington, DC priests Saturday that he appropriately handled a 2004 allegation of misconduct against Archbishop Theodore McCarrick. The cardinal also said that his recent denials of knowledge concerning McCarrick’s alleged misdeeds pertained only to the sexual abuse of minors.

In a Jan. 12 letter to priests, Wuerl said that in 2004 he received a complaint alleging McCarrick’s “inappropriate conduct” from a former priest who was primarily reporting other incidents of sexual abuse, one involving a Pittsburgh priest. Wuerl was at the time Bishop of Pittsburgh.

“The entire report was also immediately turned over to the Apostolic Nuncio – the Papal Representative in the U.S. Having acted responsibly with the allegation involving Bishop McCarrick’s behavior with an adult and hearing nothing more on the matter I did not avert to this again,” Wuerl wrote.


8. Father Richard John Neuhaus, Ten Years On.

By Kathryn Jean Lopez, National Review Online, January 12, 2019, 5:30 AM

It’s hard to believe, but it’s been ten years since Father Richard John Neuhaus died. There was a memorial Mass this past Tuesday evening at the parish church, Immaculate Conception on the lower East Side, where he was pastor. He was first and foremost a Catholic priest, although he was probably best known as editor of First Things, and he was also religion editor of National Review. He was a Lutheran pastor at the time, and, as I understand it, William F. Buckley Jr. carefully chose a non-Catholic for the position (because we’ve often had so many Catholics around, people might understandably mistake us for a Catholic magazine). God had other plans, and Father Neuhas later converted and was ordained a Catholic priest.

There are two pieces of his I break out every year, one around this time of year, with the March for Life this upcoming Friday. The second, on Good Friday. Come to think of it, they are both good reflections on his life, and a good way to focus on the fact that we are not on earth very long and have a purpose. Be about that work, always, and definitely now.

That day with Pope Benedict, I realized I had some small-talk time I had not bargained on. The pope helped me along, asking where I was from. When I said New York City, he said: “New York!” and opened his arms with excitement and approval and joy. I so prayed that Father Neuhaus knew about that moment and sensed he may have. It was that joy that he radiated so often in the midst of a substantive debate or conversation. The same joy made it so that raising questions about the regime we were living in was not a message to take up arms but to be critical about what we were pledging allegiance to, being constantly challenged by Christ and Christ alone. There was a father’s love about so much of his writing, helping people to see God in all things. May we always do the same, learning from the best of Father Neuhaus.