1. U.S. Gives Foster Group Religious Leeway.

By Stephanie Armour, The Wall Street Journal, Pg. A2

The Trump administration on Wednesday said a faith-based foster-care organization in South Carolina can be a part of the federally funded program even if it works only with Christian families.

The administration gave Miracle Hill Ministries, a Christian social-services agency based in Greenville, S.C., an exemption from a regulation put in place during the Obama administration that bans discrimination because of religion or sexual orientation.

The HHS, which granted the exemption to Miracle Hill Ministries, is preparing to release a rule giving its Conscience and Religious Freedom division—established last year by Trump administration within the HHS’s Office for Civil Rights—broad authority to investigate and enforce religious-discrimination claims in health care.

HHS’s Conscience and Religious Freedom is already taking action. Last week, it said California violated federal conscience law when it required so-called crisis pregnancy centers—which are typically nonprofits that counsel women against having abortions—to provide information about terminating their pregnancies.


2. The state-by-state action to protect abortion.

By Andrea Miller, The Washington Post, January 24, 2019, Pg. A23, Opinion
Andrea Miller is president of the National Institute for Reproductive Health and the NIRH Action Fund.

Forty-six years ago, the Supreme Court issued the Roe v. Wade decision, which legalized abortion — and established the popular misconception that the Supreme Court alone determines whether abortion is accessible. In the near half-century since, states have passed more than 1,000 laws against abortion access. And with the looming threat that the court will gut or overturn Roe, we find ourselves in a moment similar to the one abortion rights advocates faced before Roe, in which the greatest possibility for protecting abortion rights and access lies in state-by-state action. That may seem like a discouraging prospect, but it’s a challenge that activists and elected officials should and are beginning to embrace.

As a blueprint for change, look to the state of New York, which, until Tuesday, banned abortion after the 24th week of pregnancy unless the mother’s life was threatened and forced women such as Erika Christensen to travel out of state to receive critical abortion care. New York was also one of only seven states in the country to criminalize self-managed abortion. And it was one of many whose laws have not kept pace with changes in medical practice to allow qualified, trained mid-level health professionals to provide abortion care.


3. An Urgent Push For Safeguards In Gene Editing.

By Pam Belluck, The New York Times, January 24, 2019, Pg. A1

A year ago, Dr. Matthew Porteus, a genetics researcher at Stanford, received an out-of-the-blue email from a young Chinese scientist, asking to meet.

A few weeks later, the scientist, He Jiankui, arrived in his office and dropped a bombshell. He said he had approval from a Chinese ethics board to create pregnancies using human embryos that he had genetically edited, a type of experiment that had never been carried out before and is illegal in many countries. 

Now, nearly two months after Dr. He shook the scientific world by announcing he had created the first genetically edited babies — twins, born in November — the world’s major science and medical institutions are urgently trying to come up with international safeguards to keep such rogue experiments from happening again. 

But while scientists around the world agree the nightmare scenario must be stopped, they disagree about how to do it. Even inventors of Crispr, the gene-editing tool Dr. He used, differ on the best approach. 


4. Manna From Heaven? Shares Tied to Japan’s Nagasaki Get Pope Visit Boost.

By Reuters, January 24, 2019

The Pope told reporters on Wednesday he would visit Japan in November. While his travel plan has not been announced, Japanese media said the visit would include Nagasaki, Hiroshima, where the first atomic bomb was dropped, as well as Tokyo.

More than 600,000 people visit the atomic bomb museum in Nagasaki every year. The 82-year-old pontiff said this month he was afraid about the danger of nuclear war.

The southern port city has ancient links to the Christian world and one of Japan’s largest Catholic communities.

The first Christians to arrive in Japan – Portuguese Catholics in the 16th century – came ashore in the Nagasaki area.

Nagasaki was home to “secret Christians” who kept their faith underground for more than 200 years despite an official ban that began in the early seventeenth century.


5. Amid wall debate, pope says fear of migration makes us crazy.

By Nicole Winfield, The Associated Press, January 23, 2019, 6:42 PM

Pope Francis said Wednesday that fear of migration is “making us crazy” as he began a trip to Central America amid a standoff over President Donald Trump’s promised wall at the U.S.-Mexico border and a new caravan of migrants heading north.

Francis was asked by reporters about the proposed border wall Wednesday on the way to Panama, where he is looking to leave the sex abuse scandals buffeting his papacy behind. Francis responded: “It is the fear that makes us crazy.”

The pontiff’s plane touched down in Panama City in the afternoon and he was met by President Juan Carlos Varela and first lady Lorena Castillo, who escorted him along a red carpet laid on the tarmac.

The Roman Catholic Church’s first Latin American pope and the son of Italian immigrants to Argentina, Francis has made the plight of migrants and refugees a cornerstone of his papacy. He is also expected to offer words of encouragement to young people gathered in Panama for World Youth Day, the church’s once-every-three-year pep rally that aims to invigorate the next generation of Catholics in their faith.


6. Fortifying the Faith in a Time of Crisis, At this moment of crisis, Catholics need to draw closer to Christ, not farther away.

By Joan Frawley Desmond, National Catholic Register, January 23, 2019

As the new year proceeds apace, an unprecedented crisis continues to roil the Church, stoking anger, cynicism and dread among the faithful and demoralizing their pastors.

Yet even as the scandals tempt some to register their disgust by leaving the Church, many active Catholics see this moment as a time of much-needed “purification” and are looking for a path that will keep Christ at the center of a world turned upside down.

“We are going through a terrible purification of the Church, and we need to encourage members whose faith is weakening,” Mary Ellen Bork, a Virginia-based writer and lecturer on issues affecting Catholic life and culture, told the Register.

“The answer is not to walk out,” she said, “but to go deeper.”

“A tough year lies ahead,” George Weigel concluded in a column timed for the start of 2019.

“Yet Christ,” Weigel writes, “risen and triumphant, remains present and available in the Eucharist, to which serious missionary disciples will have ever more frequent recourse for strength and courage. May his Kingdom come.” 


7. The Case of the ‘Disappearing’ Cardinals.

By Father Raymond J. de Souza, National Catholic Register, January 23, 2019

That it happened so quickly and so smoothly does not make it any less remarkable.

Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the apostolic administrator of Washington, was not the main celebrant at the largest Mass on the calendar of the archdiocese, the “Mass for Life,” held on the morning of the March for Life at an arena where some 20,000 young people gathered. Cardinal Wuerl had been the main celebrant of the Mass for years.

But on the Tuesday before Friday’s Mass, Cardinal Wuerl wrote to the priests of Washington explaining that when he had repeatedly denied that he had even “heard rumors” about Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, he had not “intended to be imprecise,” but had simply forgotten that he had reported allegations against the cardinal to the apostolic nunciature in 2004.

Remember how difficult it used to be to make a cardinal cease public duties when it would be awkward to have him present?

Despite public pleas to Cardinal Bernard Law that he should absent himself from celebrating one of the novemdiales Masses for the repose of St. John Paul II after his funeral in 2005, Cardinal Law insisted, and no one could stop him. It generated the unpleasant reaction expected.

And, of course, Cardinal — now-Archbishop — McCarrick, accused of sexual abuse himself, has been entirely out of view, never having been seen in public since the allegations against him were announced in June. It is likely that he will never be seen again, not even at his funeral.


8. The Covington controversy shows a picture isn’t always worth a thousand words. 

By Kathleen Parker, Washington Post Online, January 22, 2019, 8:16 PM

When a white, Catholic-school boy wearing a “Make America Great Again” cap is shown staring down a Native American Vietnam War veteran, sending the media scrambling for their pitchforks and torches, one might want to pause and stroke one’s chin.
Haven’t we seen this flick before?

Indeed, the plot doesn’t vary much among these episodic teaching moments from which we apparently learn nothing. The common denominator? White boys presumably exercising their white privilege at the expense of a minority victim — whether a black dancer (not) raped at a Duke University lacrosse team party or a female student (not) gang-raped at the University of Virginia. If the media doesn’t create a story from whole cloth, it stampedes to justice with the ethics and instincts of a starving honey badger.

In the current rerun, several longer videos of the incident last Friday show a much broader context than did the initial clip and widely circulated video stills. As it turns out, a picture isn’t always worth a thousand words; sometimes it’s worth just one: Wait.

The added fact that Sandmann and his classmates are Catholic-school students only fueled the narrative by providing a reiteration of sorts of Supreme Court Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh’s confirmation ordeal. For many Americans, thanks to hearings that were a kangaroo court of satirical excess, Kavanaugh will always be the white-privileged, prep-school guy accused of assaulting a girl while in high school.

Which is to say, sorry, boys. You are a victim of terrible timing, by birth and by history. You didn’t stand a chance. Shame on us for being duped yet again. Anybody should have seen it coming.