1. Pope Tries to Lower Summit Expectations.

By Francis X. Rocca, The Wall Street Journal, January 29, 2019, Pg. A16

Pope Francis tried to play down next month’s Vatican summit on sex abuse,describing the meeting’s purpose as primarily educational even amid widespread calls for bishops to face greater accountability for the scandal that has shaken the Catholic church.

The pope made the comments Sunday evening to reporters accompanying him on his flight back from a visit to Panama.

The pope said the meeting would aim to raise awareness of sex abuse and educate bishops in the procedures for preventing it and punishing perpetrators, specifying the distinct roles of bishops, archbishops and the presidents of bishops’ conferences. 

“It’s extraordinary that after so many years into this crisis he’s talking about making bishops aware of the problem,” said Marie Collins, who resigned from the pope’s advisory panel on sex abuse in 2017 to protest what she said was Vatican inaction. “My God, you’d have to be living under a rock not to be aware of this by now, in any part of the world,” she added.

The Vatican announced the summit in September, following a string of abuse scandals in the U.S., Latin America, Europe and Australia. The issue of accountability of bishops became especially acute with the downfall of retired Archbishop Theodore McCarrick of Washington, D.C., who in July became the first man in nearly a century to give up the title of cardinal after a church investigation found credible an accusation that he had abused a teenager in the early 1970s.

The Vatican is expected to complete a trial of the archbishop on several charges of abuse and misconduct before the late-February summit. Archbishop McCarrick has said he is innocent of one of the charges and hasn’t commented on the others. His lawyer declined to comment on the other charges on Monday.


2. Reporter Trolls Christian Schools, A writer gets more than he bargains for when he seeks an exposé on Twitter.

By William McGurn, The Wall Street Journal, January 29, 2019, Pg. A13, Opinion

Remember the Ronald Reagan aphorism about the nine most terrifying words in the English language? They were: “I’m from the government, and I’m here to help.”
Now we have a new contender. The nine words come from the first sentence of a tweet by Dan Levin last Thursday: “I’m a New York Times reporter writing about #exposechristianschools.”

#ExposeChristianSchools is a hashtag created by Chris Stroop, a self-described “exvangelical,” in response to news that Karen Pence, the vice president’s wife, is returning to her old job teaching art at a Christian school in Virginia. Mr. Stroop invited his “fellow Christian school grads” to share their stories about “how traumatizing those bastions of bigotry are.”

For Mr. Levin’s part, after his tweet was taken as a signal that he was trolling for grievances to fill out an attack piece, he issued a follow-up. A hit job was the furthest thing from his mind, he insisted. He was interested in all experiences—“including positive stories.”

Whatever Mr. Levin’s intention, he has provoked an outpouring from people attesting to the wonderful difference Christian schools have made in their lives.

One of the lesser known things about Catholic schools is that they boast a 99% high-school graduation rate—with 86% going to a four-year college, nearly twice the 44% rate of public schools. Particularly in the inner cities, these schools are a lifeline, not least for the tens of thousands of non-Catholic children of color who without that education might be condemned to lives lived at the margins of the American Dream.

Among the features that set Christian schools apart is the command to see the face of Christ in each child. Human nature being what it is, reality often falls short. But it remains a beautiful expectation, a reminder that the children before you are to be not only taught but loved.

Loving them means teaching them the truth.

People are free to reject these teachings. It’s also fair for those who don’t accept them to point out that American law and dominant culture no longer reflect this understanding of the human person. What isn’t fair or reasonable is the extraordinary argument we’ve heard so often these past few weeks, that teaching the Christian tradition is itself hateful and un-Christian.

Though Christians believe in miracles, few have the strength of faith to expect the Times would ever allow them space to air unfiltered their witness to the splendor of Christian schools. But the Twitter feed of one New York Times reporter is now doing just that. And for this there are only two words for Mr. Levin: Thank you.


3. Legislature Approves Sex-Abuse Measure.

By Jimmy Vielkind, The Wall Street Journal, January 29, 2019, Pg. A8A

New York will become the 10th state to give victims of childhood sexual abuse a new chance to sue their abusers— and the institutions that employed them—regardless of when their abuse occurred.

The bill will create a one-year window in which to bring the sexual-assault lawsuits, no matter when the alleged abuse occurred. Victims and their advocates say the look-back window, which had been opposed by theCatholic church, insurance companies and the Boy Scouts of America, is essential to name alleged abusers and give victims closure.


4. Francis Asks Church Body For Patience With Summit.

By Elisabetta Povoledo, The New York Times, January 29, 2019, Pg. A10

Pope Francis sought to downplay what he called “inflated expectations” for a global church summit on child sexual abuse next month, casting it as an educational workshop for bishops more than a definitive policymaking meeting.

“We have to deflate expectations,” the pope told reporters on the papal planereturning to Rome from an international event for Roman Catholic youth in Panama. “Because the problem of abuse will continue, it is a human problem.”

The summit is shaping up to be a pivotal moment in Francis’ nearly six-year papacy. As abuse scandals have spread beyond the United States and Europe to Latin America and Asia, the pope has faced pressure to prove that the church is capable of removing abusive priests and disciplining negligent bishops.

The pope said that the meeting, to be held at the Vatican on Feb. 21 through Feb. 24, was intended to help bishops and the heads of religious orders better understand the procedures to follow when faced with allegations of abuse, and to impress on them the terrible suffering of victims.


5. Same Obstacles for Abortion.

By Ceylan Yeginsu, Newly Legal in Ireland, The New York Times, January 29, 2019, Pg. A4

In May, Ireland voted decisively to cast aside one of the world’s most restrictive abortion bans, approving a new law that guarantees unrestricted abortion up to the 12th week of pregnancy, and longer in situations in which there is a serious risk to the life or health of a woman, or in which there are fatal fetal abnormalities.

The historic result was hailed as an extraordinary victory for women’s rights, sealing a pronounced shift toward social liberalism — including in recent years the approval of same-sex marriage and the election of a gay prime minister — in a society that had long been dominated by the Roman Catholic Church.

But as Irish women are now discovering, the mere passage of a law cannot wipe away deeply held beliefs. Women seeking abortions are finding they must still contend with a deeply ingrained opposition that is hobbling the government’s efforts to make safe and efficient abortion services readily available.

An emboldened anti-abortion movement has started employing United States-style tactics like fake abortion clinics and protests outside legitimate ones. But it is not just the anti-abortion activists who are limiting women’s options.


6. Faith-based foster care emerges as latest battle over religious freedom.

By Valerie Richardson, The Washington Times, January 29, 2019, Pg. A1

First it was the baker, then the calligrapher, then the florist. Now Christian foster care providers have taken center stage in the battle over where religious freedom ends and discrimination begins.

A phalanx of left-of-center groups, led by the American Civil Liberties Union and Human Rights Campaign, erupted last week after Miracle Hill Ministries received a federal waiver to continue offering services despite working only with foster couples that adhere to traditional Christian beliefs.

That means Miracle Hill does not accept same-sex couples. 

She said Miracle Hill’s foster families take in children of all religiousbackgrounds and that DSS requires foster parents to respect the child’s faith.

“It’s really important to note as well that we serve all children. It does not matter whether they have Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Jewish [backgrounds],” Ms. Furnell said. “If DSS wants to place one of those children with our families, they can do so. It’s entirely up to DSS as to where those children go.”

Last week, the Health and Human Services Department granted a waiver to South Carolina exempting it from an eleventh-hour Obama-era rule banning child welfare contractors from discriminating on the basis of religion or sexual orientation.

As a result, Miracle Hill won back its state license, which had been placed on provisional status, but the 81-year-old religious nonprofit has also been deluged with hate emails and phone calls, including an arson threat.

There’s also the possibility of a lawsuit. Leslie Cooper, the ACLU LGBT and HIV Project deputy director, said on a press call that her organization is considering legal action in reaction to the HHS waiver.

“No child welfare provider should be prevented from serving children and families because the government doesn’t like their religious beliefs,” said Alliance Defending Freedom legal counsel Kellie Fiedorek. “This is both unlawful and unjust. We’re grateful that HHS and South Carolina alike are taking steps to keep kids first.”


7. Pakistani Christian Asia Bibi remains free as Supreme Court says it will not review her case. 

By Euan McKirdy and Adeel Raja, CNN, January 29, 2019, 6:14 AM

A Pakistani Christian woman freed from death row last year will not be retried, the country’s Supreme Court said Tuesday, as judges rejected a petition to review their previous decision. 

Asia Bibi, a mother of five from Punjab province, was convicted of blasphemy in 2010 and sentenced to hang after she was accused of defiling the name of the Prophet Mohammed during an argument a year earlier with Muslim colleagues.

The workers had refused to drink from a bucket of water Bibi had touched because she was not Muslim. At the time, Bibi said the case was a matter of women who didn’t like her “taking revenge.”

Last year, she won her appeal against the conviction and death sentence.

Bibi’s case attracted widespread outrage and support from Christians worldwide. 

When her family met with Pope Francis in February at the Vatican, the Pontiff reportedly described Bibi as a “martyr,” according to Alessandro Mondeduro, president of the charity Aid to the Church in Need. Francis’ predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, had also called for Bibi’s release.

In her 2012 book, “Get Me Out of Here,” Bibi included a letter to her family urging them not to “lose courage or faith in Jesus Christ.”


8. Life and death with a Jesuit: Father James Schall on the important things. 

By Kathryn Jean Lopez, Crux, January 29, 2019

If this were your last interview, what would you say?

Jesuit Father James V. Schall had a close call at the age of 91 earlier this month. A longtime professor of politics at Georgetown, he’s been living in retirement with his brother Jesuits in Los Gatos, California.

“At 91, one has little leeway. The old hide-and-seek cry, ‘Here I come, ready or not,’ is in place,” the priest said.

“We do not know the day or hour. So, we abide in what is given to us in the now. We do not know if we are ready – we just try to be, to have faith and courage,” Schall continued.

In an email exchange, Kathryn Jean Lopez spoke to the Jesuit about life and death.


9. New Mosul prelate urges Pope to visit Iraq, Francis says he wants to go. 

By Inés San Martín, Crux, January 29, 2019

Pope Francis is a legendarily bold traveler, including a visit to the Central African Republic in 2015 amid a bloody civil war – even telling the pilot that if it wasn’t safe to land, he’d just take a parachute.

Knowing that history, the newly ordained archbishop of Mosul in Iraq is upping the ante, suggesting he pay a visit to his own conflict-scarred country.

“The pope is an adventurous person, and everybody loves him here, so he should come,” said Najib Mikhael Mousa, the new Chaldean Archbishop of Mosul. He holds the position once occupied by Archbishop Mar Paulos Faraj Rahho, who was kidnapped and killed in 2008, with some locals blaming Al Qaeda and others Kurdish militants.

“… The entire population of Iraq, even the Shia and the Kurdish people, are waiting,” Moussa said. “Security is good now … A little bishop, or a priest, we have no problem moving around, so it would be no problem for the pope to come. He just needs to decide to do so!”


10. Can Asia Bibi remain acquitted of blasphemy in Pakistan?

By Andrea Picciotti-Bayer, Catholic News Agency, January 28, 2019
Andrea Picciotti-Bayer is Legal Advisor for The Catholic Association Foundation. Her legal career has been dedicated to civil rights advocacy.

This Tuesday a three-judge panel of Pakistan’s Supreme Court will decide whether to reconsider its acquittal of a Pakistani Christian mother-of-five on charges of blasphemy.

Yes, you read that right. One of our allies in the fight against terror may be having second thoughts on whether a middle-aged mother-of-five deserves to be put to death for defending herself and her faith.

Asia Bibi is a Christian, a Roman Catholic to be precise, who lived in Pakistan’s  predominantly Muslim province of Punjab. This peasant woman worked in a berry field to help her husband support their children. Asia’s status as a religious minority was not a “protected” one. Far from it. She suffered constant insults from neighbors, even though they, too, shared in the same suffering that comes with extreme poverty.

Well aware that some of their countrymen are violently intolerant of Pakistan’s religious minorities, the three judges will decide Tuesday whether to defend their October 2018 acquittal or back away from it. It’s a moment for Pakistan, but for the United States and the rest of the civilized world, too. In one of our allies in the war on terror, the rule of law and religious freedom, to say nothing of a mother-of-five’s life, hang in the balance. Will the story of Asia Bibi end in her freedom or martyrdom?


11. Anti-Catholicism Lives Loudly in Democrats.

By Ashley McGuire, RealClear Religion, January 28, 2019
Ashley E. McGuire is a Senior Fellow with The Catholic Association. 

Democrats just keep outdoing themselves. In the domain of anti-Catholic bigotry, that is. 

Until recently, it was hard to believe that they could be any more anti-Catholic then they were after the Amy Coney Barrett kerfuffle, in which Senators Feinstein (D-CA) and Durbin (D-IL) questioned whether Coney Barrett’s Catholic faith should disqualify her from a circuit court judgeship. Senator Feinstein now infamously said, “The dogma lives loudly within you, and that’s a concern.”

The sentence went viral not just because it was utterly weird, but because it laid bare a hostility towards religion that Democrats had previously succeeded in masking with liberal euphemisms about tolerance.

The Catholic Church is the largest non-governmental provider of healthcarecharity, and education services to the poor in this country. It counts tens of millions of Americans who view that faith as a positive contribution to a free and pluralistic society. With all due respect to Senator Feinstein, the real concern is that her party seems so eager to disagree.


12. Here’s What Was Overshadowed at This Year’s March for Life.

By Grazie Pozo Christie, Townhall, January 28, 2019, 2:15 PM
Dr. Grazie Pozo Christie specializes in radiology in the Miami area and serves on the advisory board for The Catholic Association.

After having made the trip from Miami to attend, it made me sad that this year’s March for Life in Washington, D.C. should be reduced to one troubling encounter and its ugly online aftermath. What a great shame. 

I’ve attended the March for Life each year for some time, and I’ve even been a speaker on the main stage. It’s hard to convey just how wholesome, how cheerful and sweet the entire event is.  The marchers consider themselves participants in the noble American tradition of peaceful civil rights demonstrations. They believe they are involved in a civil rights struggle no less important than those of the 1960’s. The setting – the imposing monuments and the wide mall rising to the capitol—reminds them of our country’s founding ideals and the many men and women who have worked tirelessly over the years to make them a reality.  These marchers consider themselves honest workers in the same historic vineyard. 

The marchers are invariably cheerful. Smiles adorn almost every face.  It is a happy thing to be in an enormous crowd of people who share your principles and your passion.  Being ardently pro-life can be a lonely affair for those who may live surrounded by pro-abortion friends and co-workers.  At the March for Life, however everyone loves babies and the women who face challenging pregnancies. Everyone understands that those loves are not mutually exclusive. 

Also disheartening is the silence by most mainstream media outlets.  Many ignore or downplay these pro-life events, even when more than 100,000 people participate and the Vice President of the United States attends.  Unless, of course, a video – or a snippet of video that can be taken out of context – emerges and can be manipulated to manufacture a false narrative. All of this is disheartening, though it will not deter us from marching again next year, and the year after, and until we have come to a place in our culture where abortion is unthinkable.  


13. Episode 231: From Fire By Water by Sohrab Ahmari.

Hosted by John J. Miller, National Review Podcasts, January 28, 2019, 10:13 AM

John J. Miller is joined by Sohrab Ahmari to discuss his book, From Fire By Water.

Sohrab Ahmari was a teenager living under the Iranian ayatollahs when he decided that there is no God. Nearly two decades later, he would be received into the Roman Catholic Church.

In From Fire, by Water, he recounts this unlikely passage, from the strident Marxism and atheism of a youth misspent on both sides of the Atlantic to a moral and spiritual awakening prompted by the Mass. At once a young intellectual’s finely crafted self-portrait and a life story at the intersection of the great ideas and events of our time, the book marks the debut of a compelling new Catholic voice.