1. Pope Sees Regional Corruption Threat, Pope says corruption scandals tarnished political systems and is hurting democracy across the region.

By  Ryan Dube, The Wall Street Journal, January 22, 2018, Pg. A8

LIMA, Peru— Pope Francis wrapped up a week-long visit to Latin America on Sunday in this Andean nation warning that a series of explosive corruption scandals that have tarnished current and former presidents is rotting political systems and hurting democracy across the region.

Pope Francis arrived in Peru after visiting Chile, where the church has faced a clerical sexual abuse scandal and growing secularization. In Chile, the pope sparked a controversy and angered victims of sexual abuse by priests when he accused them of slandering a bishop accused of covering up molestation of minors. Before those comments, the pope expressed pain and shame at the abuse of children.

The pope drew enthusiastic crowds during his visits to Peru’s Amazon jungle where he defended the environment and indigenous communities, as well as his trip to a northern coastal city damaged by flooding last year. In Lima, hundreds of thousands of people gathered at an air base to hear his SundayMass.


2. Health care providers will now follow conscience-protection laws.

By Tom Howell, Jr., The Washington Times, January 22, 2018, Pg. A2

HHS followed through on its launch of a religious-freedom division by requiring health care providers who obtain federal grants to certify they’re following laws that allow doctors and nurses to exempt themselves from abortion and other controversial procedures without fear of retaliation.

The moves are designed to bolster Mr. Trump’s standing with the pro-life community. HHS announced both moves as activists flooded Washington to decry abortion in the March for Life, an annual protest held around the anniversary of the Supreme Court’s 1973 decision to uphold a women’s right to abortion in Roe v. Wade.

HHS officials on Friday said they’re focused on narrow set or procedures — namely abortion, sterilization or assisted suicide — that health care workers can opt out of on religious or moral grounds, according to a patchwork of long-standing laws.

“Diversity is good, and everybody should be treated with respect in health care,” said Roger Severino, who leads HHS’s Office for Civil Rights.


3. Dismissive words on abuse scandal cast pall over pope’s trip.

By Christine Armario, Associated Press, January 22, 2018, 12:04 AM

Pope Francis ventured into the Amazon to demand rights for indigenous groups, decried the scourge of corruption afflicting the region’s politics and denounced a culture of “machismo” in which violence against women is too often tolerated.

Yet his latest visit to South America is likely to be remembered most for 27 dismissive words that sparked outrage among Chileans already angry over a notorious clerical abuse scandal and haunted the rest of his trip.

Questioned by local journalists about Chilean Bishop Juan Barros, who abuse survivors say was present when the Rev. Fernando Karadima molested them decades ago, Francis responded that there was no proof against the bishop he appointed in 2015 and characterized the accusations as slander.

“The day they bring me proof against Bishop Barros, then I’ll speak,” he said. “There is not one shred of proof against him. It’s all calumny. Is that clear?”


4. Droves fill pope’s final Mass in restive Latin America trip.

By Nicole Winfield, Associated Press, January 21, 2018, 6:10 PM

More than 1 million people turned out Sunday for Pope Francis’ final Mass in Peru, giving him a warm and heartfelt farewell that contrasted sharply with the outcry he caused in neighboring Chile by accusing sex abuse victims of slandering a bishop.

Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston, who publicly rebuked the pope on Saturdayfor those remarks, joined the pontiff and dozens of fellow bishops on a tented altar at a Lima airfield to celebrate the Mass. The crowd of 1.3 million people reported by the Vatican was the largest of Francis’ weeklong, two-nation visit.

Francis tried to move beyond the scandal Sunday, joking with cloistered nuns that they were taking advantage of his visit to finally get out and get a breath of fresh air. And he denounced a corruption scandal in Latin America that has even implicated his Peruvian host, President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, who recently survived an impeachment vote by lawmakers.


5. Too soon to forgive, The pope wants forgiveness for widespread sexual abuse, but he hasn’t taken real action on it.

By the Editorial Board, The Washington Post, January 20, 2018, Pg. A16

On a Recent trip to Chile, Pope Francis apologized, once again, for clerical sex abuse, expressing the “pain and shame, shame I feel over the irreparable harm caused to children by church ministers.” He then proceeded to compound that shame by dismissing credible accusations that a Chilean bishop was complicit in hiding abuse committed by a priest who was once his mentor.

The episode was emblematic of the pope’s apparent inability to come to terms with revelations about pedophile priests and the bishops and cardinals who cover for them. 


6. HHS releases ‘conscience rights’ rule proposal, Broadens protections for health workers objecting to certain procedures.

By Sarah Pulliam Bailey, Ariana Eunjung Cha and Juliet Eilperin, The Washington Post, January 20, 2018, Pg A2

Citing President Trump’s “pro-life mission,” the Health and Human Services Department announced actions on Friday that are designed to roll back key health-care policies of the Obama administration.

Roger Severino, director for the HHS Office of Civil Rights, said a proposed rule on “conscience rights” will further protect health-care workers who think they are being punished or discriminated against because of their moral or religious beliefs.

Speaking as thousands of abortion opponents gathered on the Mall for the annual March for Life, Severino told reporters that the division’s focus would be on “actions,” as in types of medical procedures, rather than groups of people. He drew parallels with Target refusing to sell guns. “This is not about denying anyone health care,” he said during a conference call.

Several religious groups battled the Obama administration over the Affordable Care Act’s mandate that employers and insurers provide no-cost contraceptive coverage for employees. In October, HHS introduced rules expanding the range of businesses that can object to the requirement on religious or moral grounds and receive an exemption.

“The protection of conscience is a freedom that for too long has not been given the attention it deserves,” Severino said Friday.

Many religious conservative groups are praising HHS’s moves this week.


7. The Pope Causes Priests’ Victims More Pain.

By The Editorial Board, The New York Times, January 20, 2018, Pg. A22

Pope Francis arrived in Chile with the right message: He was “pained and ashamed,” he said on Tuesday, about the irreparable damage abusive priests have inflicted on minors. Yet he refused to meet with victims of the country’s most nefarious sexual abuser, and when pressed about his support of a bishop linked to that priest, he dismissed the accusations as slander.

For all his professions of horror at the revelations about predatory priests whose activities were covered up by the hierarchy — and for all his other admirably enlightened and pastoral actions — it seems the pope has yet to fully appreciate that the abuse of minors is not simply a matter of a few deviant priests protected by overzealous prelates but of his church’s acceptance of a horrible violation of a most sacred trust: that of a devout and questioning youth and a spiritual guide.


8. At the March for Life, Overcoming Darkness.

By Kathryn Jean Lopez, National Review Online, January 20, 2018, 4:00 AM

“We shall overcome,” Cardinal Timothy Michael Dolan said, invoking not only the late slain Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. but the gospel for which he lived and died. Dolan was in the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, near the Catholic University of America. It was packed, at the time, with over 10,000 people, most of them high-school or college students, though including many younger and older persons, too. Most had come on buses from places like Florida and Ohio and New York. 

It’s no breaking news that Catholics might be pro-life, but Dolan’s words and confidence seemed to take on a new urgency and opportunity as he spoke them this year. Dolan, the cardinal archbishop of New York and outgoing chair of the bishops’ pro-life office, noted a number of issues, including race and immigration, that threaten the dignity of human life and do violence to the body and soul, community and nation. But there’s a perniciousness so intimate about abortion. About severing a mother from her child. About its being state-sanctioned. About its even being culturally encouraged in ways quite loud, and about the recesses of deep and private pain that is shared by all too many. It’s about an unnecessary deprivation of love, a deprivation that doctors sometimes insist on, even for loving couples who might otherwise be more than ready to take on challenges of love that possible disabilities in a child involve. 

“We shall overcome” seemed like a door opened to a renewal, a fresh breeze over an issue on which politics always seems to stand stubbornly firm — people hardened in political loyalties, placards ready-made, euphemisms abounding. Dolan delivered his homily at the annual vigil Mass for life before many of those who had traveled for the January event that is part pilgrimage, part protest, and part celebration of human life. He did so citing the Reverend King’s niece, who believes that her uncle would have marched for the human rights of the unborn, alongside the young people who always fill the nation’s capital to mark the anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade.


9. March for Life 2018: Marching for one day, but serving for a lifetime.

By Dr. Grazie Pozo Christie, The Hill, January 19, 2018, 7:15 AM

Dr. Grazie Pozo Christie is a policy advisor for The Catholic Association, which is dedicated to being a faithful Catholic voice in the public square.

Over the past decades, the pro-life movement has developed a vast and effective outreach to mothers (and fathers) challenged by the reality of a baby on the way. This outreach is channeled through the Pregnancy Resource Centers, which number in the many thousands. The idea of each center is to create a loving space that is the exact opposite of the abortion clinic, which offers only one “solution” for the crisis pregnancy, one that invariably sacrifices the newly conceived life for the putative benefit of the woman bearing it.

Our centers, in contrast, provide love for both the unborn child and the parents of that child. To love is to desire the good of the other, and for newly conceived children, it is self-evidently good to have a chance at a full life. For the parents, the Pregnancy Resource Centers offer a myriad of goods, from help in accessing financial assistance for the medical costs of pregnancy and delivery, to parenting and spousal classes for the mother and father. Diapers, strollers, car seats, and formula are dispensed liberally when the baby arrives, and for the parents who wish for the child to live but can’t care for him or her, adoption is proposed and facilitated as a wonderful solution. Pregnancy Resource Centers are cornucopias of “goods” that put the dismal abortion clinics and their stirrups, sedatives, and suction apparatus to shame. 

At the March for Life this year, the theme is “Love Saves Lives,” and it perfectly captures not only the mood of the demonstration but also the compassionate outreach of the pro-life movement. It is love for justice and human rights that motivates us to march, and love for human beings that drives us to volunteer. It is a love that holds all the players in the pregnancy drama in its warmth, even the little stranger so callously disregarded at the single-option abortion clinic down the street.


10. Pro-Lifers Applaud New HHS ‘Conscience and Religious Freedom Division’.

By Brian Fraga, National Catholic Register, January 19, 2018

In its latest initiative to bolster religious liberty, President Donald Trump’s administration in mid-January created a new division within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to expand religious freedom and conscience protections for health care workers who object to performing abortions or referring Americans to those services.

The new Conscience and Religious Freedom Division, announced Jan. 18, is charged with enforcing the federal laws that already exist to protect doctors, nurses, midwives and other health care workers who refuse to perform, accommodate or assist with certain procedures on religious or moral grounds.

The new division, an entity within the HHS Office of Civil Rights, also provides an outlet for health care workers to file complaints if they believe they have been discriminated against because of their religious or moral convictions.

The U.S. bishops are highly supportive of the HHS new division.

“We applaud HHS for its significant actions to protect conscience rights and religious freedom. For more than 40 years — dating back to the Church Amendment of 1973 — Congress has enacted federal laws protecting rights of conscience in health care,” Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Pro-Life Activities, and Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, chairman of the USCCB’s Committee for Religious Liberty, said in a Jan. 19 statement. “We are grateful that HHS is taking seriously its charge to protect these fundamental civil rights through formation of a new division dedicated to protecting conscience rights and religious freedom.”

As well as additional actions by HHS, Cardinal Dolan and Archbishop Kurtz stressed, “Permanent legislative relief is essential. We urge Congress to pass the Conscience Protection Act in order to give victims of discrimination the ability to defend their rights in court.  No one should be forced to violate their deeply held convictions about the sanctity of human life.”