1. Billie Eilish is right. Porn is inflicting serious harm on America’s children, Singer Billie Eilish was exposed to sexually explicit acts online at age 11. Her experience is more common than many Americans realize., By Theresa Olohan, USA Today, January 18, 2022, Opinion In December, French authorities promised to block five major porn sites if they didn’t take immediate action to ensure that viewers are 18 and older. This news came shortly after Billie Eilish’s denunciation of pornography, which shocked many of the 20-year-old singer’s fans. Aside from the novelty of a celebrity acknowledging the pitfalls of pornography consumption, people were horrified to hear that Eilish was exposed to sexually explicit acts online when she was only 11 years old. Yet her experience is far more common than many Americans seem to realize. According to a study by the Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire, 93% of boys and 62% of girls are exposed to pornography before age 18.  Deciding at what age a child is ready for access to internet-connected devices (including smartphones), what content filters to use and ways to monitor internet use are critical issues that should be addressed for the safety of your children. Otherwise, parents, and others entrusted with the care of a child, are left to hope that their kids will be the exception to the rule. Without due vigilance, they won’t be. Theresa Olohan is an Opinion fellow on the USA TODAY Editorial Board and a recent graduate of the University of Notre Dame. https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2022/01/18/billie-eilish-porn-distorting-children/9047170002/___________________________________________________________ 2. National Committee for Religious Freedom Launch Event, By Religious Freedom Institute, January 18, 2022, Event VIRTUAL EVENT:On January 18, 2022 at 12pm EST, Ambassador Sam Brownback and his advisory board colleagues will launch the National Committee for Religious Freedom. This event will be livestreamed on this page as well as on RFI’s YouTube and Facebook pages. OVERVIEW:The right to religious free exercise is rooted in human dignity and is a cornerstone of America’s constitutional democracy. Our nation’s historic commitment to religious freedom for everyone stands as a guiding light to the world. Unfortunately, this precious and invaluable right is under relentless attack in the United States today, undermining the constitutional rights of our citizens and threatening to do grave harm to our democratic system. The National Committee for Religious Freedom is a non-partisan, non-profit organization established to defend religious freedom for all Americans and all their religious communities by supporting political candidates at the local, state, and national levels — regardless of party affiliation — who support free exercise equality. https://www.religiousfreedominstitute.org/rfievents/national-committee-for-religious-freedom-launch-event___________________________________________________________ 3. Vatican No. 2 and deputy both positive for COVID, By Associated Press, January 18, 2022, 8:04 AM The Vatican secretary of state and his deputy have both tested positive for the coronavirus, Vatican officials said Tuesday. Cardinal Pietro Parolin, who serves as the Vatican’s secretary of state and the pope’s No. 2, has “very light” symptoms, while Archbishop Edgar Peña Parra is asymptomatic, officials said. There was no immediate comment on their last contact with Pope Francis. It wasn’t clear if Francis has received a booster shot, which has been administered to his predecessor, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/vatican-no-2-and-deputy-both-positive-for-covid/2022/01/18/31f416f8-785f-11ec-9dce-7313579de434_story.html___________________________________________________________ 4. Vatican asks bishops to invite local Protestant and Orthodox leaders to participate in synodal path, By Courtney Mares, Catholic News Agency, January 18, 2022, 4:05 AM The Vatican has issued a letter asking Catholic bishops to invite local Orthodox and Protestant leaders to participate in the diocesan stage of the two-year process leading to the 2023 Synod on Synodality. Cardinal Mario Grech, the general secretary of the Synod of Bishops, and Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, wrote a letter together asking Catholic dioceses to embrace the “ecumenical dimension” of the synodal process. “The dialogue between Christians of different confessions, united by one baptism, has a special place in the synodal journey,” said the letter highlighted by the Vatican on Jan. 17. “Indeed, both synodality and ecumenism are processes of ‘walking together.’” https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/250126/vatican-asks-bishops-to-invite-local-protestant-and-orthodox-leaders-to-participate-in-synodal-path___________________________________________________________ 5. Should a Religious Flag Fly Over a Government Building?, The Supreme Court takes up a case that could further undermine the ‘Lemon test’ that prohibits government-religion interaction., By William J. Haun, The Wall Street Journal, January 17, 2022, 5:24 PM A religious volunteer group in Boston, Camp Constitution, asked permission to fly a flag with the Latin cross to commemorate the signing of the U.S. Constitution and the city’s religious history. Although Boston had approved 284 flag-raising requests without a single rejection in the preceding 12 years, city officials denied this request because the flag was described as religious. Does religion not belong in public life? This question underlies Shurtleff v. City of Boston, which will be argued before the Supreme Court on Tuesday. The justices’ answer to that question should be based on America’s longstanding religious pluralism—not on confused legal doctrines.  Not everyone will approve of Camp Constitution’s flag—just as others may be offended by seeing the Chinese or Cuban flag flying outside Boston’s City Hall. But those who celebrate the city’s religious heritage are as much a part of Boston as its other communities are, and we have the First Amendment to ensure government can reflect its peoples’ religious culture, not sanction its erosion. Mr. Haun is a nonresident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and counsel at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which filed a friend-of-the-court brief in Shurtleff v. City of Boston. https://www.wsj.com/articles/religious-flag-government-building-lemon-standard-first-amendment-church-and-state-boston-supreme-court-11642450440?___________________________________________________________ 6. Why Boston must fly a religious flag, By David Cole, The Washington Post, January 17, 2022, Pg. A17, Opinion The ACLU has long fought to enforce the separation of church and state. We were the plaintiff in both Allegheny County v. ACLU and McCreary County v. ACLU, in which the Supreme Court held that the Constitution’s establishment clause barred the displays of a crèche and the Ten Commandments in county courthouses. So why are we supporting a Christian organization’s argument in the Supreme Court case Shurtleff v. Boston that it has a right to display a flag bearing the Latin cross in front of Boston’s City Hall? The short answer: The First Amendment requires it. David Cole is national legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union, which filed an amicus brief in support of Camp Constitution in Shurtleff v. Boston. https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2022/01/16/aclu-supports-christian-flag-boston-city-hall/___________________________________________________________ 7. ‘No end in sight:’ Texas abortion clinics dealt new setback, By Paul J. Weber, Associated Press, January 17, 2022, 10:48 PM Texas’ ban on most abortions is likely to stay in effect for the foreseeable future, opponents fighting the law said Monday night, after a federal appeals court ruled against sending the case back to only judge who has ever blocked the restrictions. The decision by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans means that legal challenges to stop the nation’s most restrictive abortion law next move to the Texas Supreme Court, which is entirely controlled by Republican justices and does not have to act immediately. Abortion clinics fear the case will now languish for weeks if not months, and maybe not until after the U.S. Supreme Court makes a ruling in a Mississippi case that could roll back abortion rights across the country. https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/abortion-clinics-challenging-texas-law-dealt-new-setback/2022/01/17/017f66b0-77f8-11ec-9dce-7313579de434_story.html___________________________________________________________ 8. Jesuit journal criticized for article supporting assisted suicide bill in Italy, By Hannah Brockhaus, Catholic News Agency, January 17, 2022, 3:00 PM Almost 60 organizations have criticized an article supporting the passing of an Italian bill to legalize assisted suicide, which was published last week in the Catholic, Jesuit-run journal La Civiltà Cattolica. A group of 57 associations, mostly based in Italy, have signed a statement voicing their opposition to the article, titled “The Parliamentarian Discussion on ‘Assisted Suicide.’”The article was part of the periodical’s Jan. 15 edition, but published online on Jan. 13. La Civiltà Cattolica, founded in 1850 and published twice a month, is produced by the Jesuits in Rome and approved before publication by the Vatican Secretariat of State. https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/250123/jesuit-journal-criticized-for-article-supporting-assisted-suicide-bill-in-italy___________________________________________________________ 9. Religious opposition to vaccines is rooted in politics, not tradition, By Evan Sandsmark, The Washington Post, January 16, 2022, Opinion On Thursday, the Supreme Court blocked the Biden administration’s coronavirus vaccine mandate for the nation’s largest employers but allowed the policy to stand for health-care workers at facilities that receive Medicare and Medicaid funding. As a result, only 17 million — rather than 84 million — workers will be required to get vaccinated against the coronavirus. The court questioned President Biden’s legal authority to impose a mandate, placing decisions in the hands of businesses, individuals and state governments rather than the federal government. But the court notably avoided adjudicating the claim that vaccine mandates violate religious liberty — an assertion passionately deployed by religious opponents of vaccines. Religious exemptions to vaccinations, however, have generally lacked a coherent basis, and those seeking them for coronavirus vaccination face an uphill battle. Religious beliefs have not historically been used as a justification to avoid vaccination, and the recent emergence of religious-based exemptions — animated by partisan politics, fear and debunked scientific studies — is an anomaly. This is not surprising, given that getting vaccinated (to protect yourself and others, especially the most vulnerable) fits neatly into the moral logic of the world’s major religions. This is one reason Pope Francis has called getting vaccinated against the coronavirus an “act of love.” Evan Sandsmark is a PhD candidate in religious studies at the University of Virginia. https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/2022/01/16/religious-opposition-vaccines-is-rooted-politics-not-tradition/___________________________________________________________ 10. Antiabortion leader Marjorie Dannenfelser: ‘You can never build human rights on the broken rights of other people’, By KK Ottesen, The Washington Post, January 16, 2022, Pg. A7, Interview Marjorie Dannenfelser, 56, is president of the Susan B. Anthony List, which works to end abortion by electing antiabortion leaders. She was national co-chair of Pro-Life Voices for Trump and is the author of “Life Is Winning: Inside the Fight for Unborn Children and Their Mothers.” She lives in Arlington, Va. [Interviewer:] You were involved in starting the Susan B. Anthony List in [1992] and have turned it into a major political force. [Dannenfelser:] I’d begun to really see the real damage of not having women speaking out on this issue. And I knew that there were large percentages of women that shared my view as a convert to [the pro-life movement], who were not politically engaged. And that’s why it grew.  [Interviewer:] I was listening to an interview recently with [former Planned Parenthood head] Cecile Richards, who was saying that having the government make a decision for a woman about her pregnancy, about her ability to control her body, is sort of the definition of authoritarianism. [Dannenfelser:] Well, the real question is, is this a human rights question or not? I believe that it is. So you can never build human rights on the broken rights of other people. You would never say that about child abuse. You’d never say that about an infant just born that was perfectly healthy, no reason to let it die on a table. You’d say that is a human and therefore has rights that a human has. The mom has rights who has just delivered that baby. And both sets of human rights must be served. And the reason that Planned Parenthood and the reason the abortion movement has gone into decline is that they’ve never been able to figure out how to argue against the humanizing, as they put it, of the fetus. They don’t have an argument that is satisfied.  [Interviewer:] For young people who are pro-choice, as you once were, and might see this change as a real curtailment of their rights, of the recognition of their humanity, their personhood, their ability to self-determine their path, what do you tell those people? What would you tell your young self? [Dannenfelser:] I invite them in. I would like to see a complete embrace of their bodies, their lives. And also make clear the distinction between their body and the two bodies. And it can never be a curtailment of your life to save the life of another person. Unexpected healing and joy comes from handling a situation in a life-affirming way rather than one that undermines life. So thinking creatively, believing in each other, that we can actually surmount obstacles ahead of us. Women have come so far in our abilities to rise to the occasion. So that the sisterhood is strong when a woman is in need. And that building our rights on the broken rights of others is impossible. So be careful not to have a baby. [Laughs.] And, if you do, we’ll be there for you. https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/magazine/antiabortion-leader-marjorie-dannenfelser-you-can-never-build-human-rights-on-the-broken-rights-of-other-people/2022/01/06/e35b8522-5873-11ec-a808-3197a22b19fa_story.html___________________________________________________________ 11. Abortion felt like an excuse to avoid helping us. Thankfully, we found another option, By Mikaela Kook and Shawnte Mallory, USA Today, January 15, 2022, Opinion We hear all the time that women need abortions to survive difficult circumstances – but we needed and wanted to choose life. We both found ourselves pregnant and in situations that appeared hopeless. But our experience with maternity homes in the United States gave our families a chance.  I was nine weeks pregnant when I reached Mary’s Shelter in Virginia that September, and was able to live there until and after the birth of my baby. The home I lived in operates out of a community of houses and actually allows women to stay for up to three years while they further their education or seek a career. I learned so much there that prepared me for my daughter’s arrival and life in general, including basic cleaning, courtesy toward others and budgeting wisely. I pursued counseling for myself as well. Everyone at Mary’s Shelter was incredibly supportive and one staff member in particular became almost a second mother to me. Today, I’m grateful to say I have reconciled with my father who adores his granddaughter. And the baby’s father is supportive and he loves his daughter. I love being a mom and I am attending college, with the goal of becoming a history teacher after graduation.  Abortion was used as an excuse to avoid helping us, but choosing life and getting connected to support set us on a positive trajectory that otherwise wouldn’t have existed. Every life is valuable – including our lives, and our babies’ lives. No woman should be pressured into ending a pregnancy. Giving our babies life was difficult, but they make us better and give us the strength to persevere through adversity even when we feel like giving up. In our experience, the pro-life movement is about so much more than ending abortion; it is about supporting and caring for women society would rather reject. Women should know that abortion isn’t their only option, and that there are resources out there to support them. Our stories are evidence that choosing life not only saved our babies, choosing life saved us. Mikaela Kook is a student at George Mason University in northern Virginia. Shawnte Mallory works in ministry at The Living Water Church in Washington, D.C. and attends Bible college where she studies theology. https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2022/01/15/alternatives-abortion-consider-maternity-home-shelter-programs/9131180002/?___________________________________________________________ 12. A crop of new books looks to push Americans into the many shades of gray about secularism, New research and books examine its ramifications in politics, By Michelle Boorstein, The Washington Post, January 15, 2022, Pg. B1 Americans are getting less “religious,” you’ve probably heard. They do fewer traditionally religious things, such as belonging to a denomination, attending worship services or feeling certain that God exists. But what does that lead to? As research in the past couple of decades has reflected those drops in behaviors and beliefs, conventional wisdom has lingered on a superficial understanding about what it really means — for our identities, our yearnings for something “bigger than ourselves” and our ideas about the role of religion in politics. Now, a new crop of books dives into the many shades of gray in growing secularism and its important ramifications. Deploying new research and theories, these writers go beyond the top-level data and argue that many Americans are, in fact, a mix. Someone may be devout personally, for instance, but strongly believe in church-state separation and the primacy of science and observable facts. They may be completely non-religious but also agnostic when it comes to the role of religion in public life. https://www.washingtonpost.com/religion/2022/01/14/secularism-atheism-religion-nones/___________________________________________________________ 13. Italian high court faults prosecutors in Vatican-linked case, By Nicole Winfield, Associated Press, January 15, 2022, 9:22 AM Italy’s supreme court has faulted prosecutors for withholding evidence benefiting the key suspect in the Vatican’s fraud and embezzlement trial in a parallel case in the Italian courts. The Court of Cassation ordered the Tribunal of Review to consider that evidence before deciding whether to uphold an international arrest warrant for Gianluigi Torzi, a London-based Italian broker who is wanted in both Italy and the Vatican for alleged financial crimes. https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/italian-high-court-faults-prosecutors-in-vatican-linked-case/2022/01/15/90ee30a6-760e-11ec-a26d-1c21c16b1c93_story.html___________________________________________________________ 14. Pfizer and the Vatican, Sources say Pope Francis met privately twice last year with Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla, By Edward Pentin, National Catholic Register, January 15, 2022 The Register has learned that Pope Francis privately held undisclosed meetings with the CEO of Pfizer last year as questions arise over the efficacy of the vaccines in preventing transmission, which are now being mandated for all Vatican staff and visitors. According to Vatican sources, the Holy Father twice met Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla at the Vatican, although the precise details are not known. Unlike most papal private audiences, these meetings were not announced by the Holy See Press Office, which did not respond to repeated requests to confirm the meetings. https://www.ncregister.com/blog/pfizer-and-the-vatican___________________________________________________________ 15. Pro-life congressional leaders praise pledge to oppose federal abortion funding, By Christine Rousselle, Catholic News Agency, January 15, 2022, 6:00 AM One hundred and eighty one members of the House of Representatives signed a letter praising the pro-life leadership of Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell and House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy, as well as promising to vote against any appropriations bill that does not include a prohibition of the use of federal funds for abortion. “Thank you for the consistent pro-life leadership you have shown even as House and Senate Democrats have demonstrated their plan to use Fiscal Year (FY) 2022 Appropriations legislation to strip out longstanding pro-life protections that have been in place for decades,” the House members wrote in a letter. The letter was led by Reps. Chris Smith (R-NJ), co-chair of the Congressional Pro-Life Caucus, and Jim Banks (R-IN), who leads the Republican Study Committee.  https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/250111/pro-life-congressional-leaders-praise-pledge-to-oppose-federal-abortion-funding___________________________________________________________ 16. Cardinal Dolan laments attacks on houses of worship in Religious Freedom Day message, By Christine Rousselle, Catholic News Agency, January 15, 2022, 12:47 PM Attacking houses of worship and religious art is akin to attacking the community who prays there, said Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York ahead of Religious Freedom Day, observed Jan. 16. “For nearly two years, the U.S. bishops have noticed a disturbing trend of Catholic churches being vandalized and statues being smashed,” said Dolan in a statement released Jan. 14 by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Dolan is the chairman of the USCCB’s religious liberty committee. “We are not alone. Our friends from other faith groups experience these outbursts too, and for some communities, they occur far more frequently,” he said. https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/250114/cardinal-dolan-laments-attacks-on-houses-of-worship-in-religious-freedom-day-message___________________________________________________________ 17. Order of Malta would be ‘subject’ of Holy See under new constitution, By The Pillar, January 14, 2022 Centuries of diplomatic independence for the Sovereign Military Order of Malta could come to an end if a new Vatican-drafted constitution for the order is put into effect. The new constitution could see the religious order lose its permanent observer status at the United Nations, and would imperil its bilateral diplomatic ties. The new constitution, which would explicitly define the order as a “subject” of the Holy See, would end nearly a millennia of sovereign independence for the religious order, have sweeping implications for its diplomatic relationships with more than 100 nations and the United Nations, and impact its humanitarian work around the globe. https://www.pillarcatholic.com/p/order-of-malta-to-be-subject-of-holy___________________________________________________________ 18. NJ state probe is ‘impediment’ to McCarrick records release, By The Pillar, January 14, 2022 As New Jersey’s governor weighs the nomination of a new state attorney general, an ongoing investigation in the attorney general’s office has delayed the release of information about the activities of disgraced former cardinal Theodore McCarrick. But with appointment of a new attorney general, it is possible the investigation could come to a close, allowing New Jersey bishops to release diocesan records on McCarrick. https://www.pillarcatholic.com/p/nj-state-probe-is-impediment-to-mccarrick___________________________________________________________ 19. US bishops’ pro-life novena to begin next week, By Christine Rousselle, Catholic News Agency, January 14, 2022, 4:01 PM This year marks the 10th anniversary of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ “9 Days for Life”, as the bishops once again encourage everyone to pray for an end to abortion. “This pro-life novena is an opportunity for recollection and reparation in observation of the anniversary of Roe v. Wade—the Supreme Court decision that made abortion legal throughout the United States,” said a Jan. 12 statement from the USCCB. The novena begins Jan. 19 and is sponsored by the conference’s Committee on Pro-Life Activities. The first 9 Days for Life novena was prayed in 2013, in observance of the 40th anniversary of the Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade. In the decision, the justices found that a woman had a legal right to an abortion throughout the entirety of her pregnancy. https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/250109/us-bishops-pro-life-novena-to-begin-next-week___________________________________________________________

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