1. Pope Francis’ trip to Chile, Peru may help restore trust in church.

By Joshua J. McElwee, National Catholic Reporter, January 8, 2018

Pope Francis’ most recent foreign trips have seen him tackle some of the world’s most difficult geopolitical issues. In September, he traveled to Colombiato back an unpopular peace deal with guerilla militants. In November, he went to Myanmar to focus global attention on the government’s persecution of the Rohingya Muslim minority.

Now, the pope is preparing to embark on a trip to Chile and Peru that may shift the focus from politics to problems inside the church community.

Local observers and prominent expatriate voices say attention during the Jan. 15-21 visit may center on how Francis can help the Chilean church regain trustworthiness after a recent spate of cases of clergy sexual abuse.

Complicating that possibility, the observers say, is Francis’ own record on the abuse issue, especially his 2015 appointment of Bishop Juan Barros Madrid of Osorno, Chile. Barros has been accused of covering up abuse by a prominent priest in the 1980s and ’90s.

Two other issues may also come to the foreground during Francis’ visit: the status of indigenous people in Chile and the legacy in Peru of liberation theology, which focuses on Jesus’ role in redeeming humanity not only from sin but also from unjust political, social or economic conditions.

If the pope repeats too strongly liberationists’ criticisms of market capitalism, it could be a “flashpoint” for Peru’s business interests, which see themselves as bringing new prosperity to the country, Carnes said. On the other hand, if Francis shies away from mentioning the legacy of the theological field it “could be something of a disappointment” for its leaders, he said.

Another item on the pope’s agenda that may attract some controversy is his planned Jan. 17 visit with inhabitants of Chile’s Araucanía Region, where the indigenous Mapuche people have lived since well before the Spanish arrived in the 16th century.

The Chilean government and the Mapuche have been at odds for nearly three decades over what lands in the region should be controlled by the indigenous group, and the disagreement has at times turned violent, with shootings, kidnappings and the setting of destructive forest fires.


2. A Jesuit School Gets Dogmatic: Is Marquette’s promise of academic freedom worth anything?

By The Wall Street Journal, January 8, 2018, Pg. A16, Review & Outlook

Marquette is a Jesuit university in Milwaukee. Which is appropriate, because jesuitical is the word that fits its explanation for firing a tenured political science professor who defended a student who was badly treated by an intolerant graduate instructor.

The sacked professor is John McAdams, who in 2014 wrote a blog post criticizing by name Cheryl Abbate, who taught a course on ethics. Ms. Abbate had told a student he could not express his disagreement with same-sex marriage in her ethics class because it was “homophobic” and on that issue there could be no debate.

Marquette officials took action—against Mr. McAdams. … Marquette President Michael Lovell gave him an ultimatum: apologize or be suspended without pay indefinitely. Mr. McAdams refused to apologize and has been effectively fired.

As a private institution, Marquette has the right to set its own employment standards and it needn’t abide by the First Amendment. But it is hard to square Mr. McAdams’s dismissal with any reasonable understanding of Marquette’s contract guaranteeing him academic freedom.

We wish these issues weren’t left for courts. But when institutions such as Marquette are unable to handle what should be the normal give and take of debate, they invite that intervention. How much better we’d all be if Marquette would acknowledge its mistake and give the professor his job back.


3. Pope urges efforts to rebuild trust in North Korea, Syria.

By Nicole Winfield, Associated Press, January 8, 2018, 6:01 AM

Pope Francis urged concerted international efforts Monday to rebuild trust on the Korean peninsula and in Syria, using his annual foreign policy address to demand that political leaders put the dignity of their people before war, profit or power.

Francis didn’t cite the United States by name, but many elements of his speech could have been read as an implicit appeal to the Trump administration: He called for governments to provide universal health care for all, demanded they respect commitments made in Paris in 2015 to curb global warming, urged them to better integrate migrants and to participate in a “serene and wide-ranging debate” on nuclear disarmament.


4. Pope laments arms, anti-immigrant rhetoric and ‘ideological colonization’ all at once.

By John L. Allen Jr., Editor, Crux, January 8, 2018

From the beginning, Pope Francis has been a notoriously difficult figure to classify by the usual Western standards of left v. right – seemingly quite progressive on many matters, and yet stubbornly traditional on others.

Monday’s address to diplomats accredited to the Vatican, generally considered the pope’s most important foreign policy speech of the year, brought a vintage example of Francis defying the conventional taxonomies.

He took up all the familiar social justice causes, where the world has become accustomed to seeing Francis as a voice for progressive positions.

On the other hand, Francis framed his remarks on Monday in the context of the seventieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the newly-formed United Nations in 1948.

While applauding the document’s impact, Francis also warned of what he described as “debatable notions of human rights” which gathered force in the wake of the social upheavals of the 1960s, which, he said, risk becoming a form of “ideological colonization.”

“Debatable notions of human rights have been advanced that are at odds with the culture of many countries,” the pope said. “The latter feel that they are not respected in their social and cultural traditions, and instead neglected with regard to the real needs they have to face.”

“Somewhat paradoxically, there is a risk that, in the very name of human rights, we will see the rise of modern forms of ideological colonization by the stronger and the wealthier, to the detriment of the poorer and the most vulnerable,” Francis said.

Francis has invoked the phrase “ideological colonization” many times before, and in general it refers to affluent Western nations making the adoption of liberal sexual ethics a condition of overseas aid programs.

Francis also offered a ringing endorsement of the pro-life cause, lamenting that “innocent children are discarded before they are even born, unwanted at times simply because they are ill or mal-formed.” Later in the speech, Francis issued a strong defense of the traditional family, defining it as “that faithful and indissoluble communion of love that joins man and woman,” and linking declining respect for the family to a “demographic winter” in some parts of the world marked by historically low fertility rates.

The pontiff also spoke forcefully on the need to defend religious freedom, “including the freedom to change religion,” which was a direct challenge to anti-conversion laws in several nations around the world.

That intriguing blend of positions that cut both left and right ran through the 5,000-word address Francis delivered on Monday, before ambassadors representing the bulk of the 185 nations with which the Holy See has diplomatic relations – 89 of which maintain embassies in Rome, with the rest naming non-residential ambassadors.


5. Pope: Don’t be misled by making money and career your life.

By Frances D’Emilio, Associated Press, January 6, 2018, 7:10 AM

Pope Francis advised against making the pursuit of money, a career or success the basis for one’s whole life, urging people in his Epiphany remarks Saturdayto also resist “the inclinations toward arrogance, the thirst for power and for riches.”

Francis said during a homily at Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica that people “often make do” with having “health, a little money and a bit of entertainment.”

He urged helping the poor and others in need of assistance, giving freely without expecting anything in return.


6. Bishops’ letter on sexual identity prompts LGBT counter-lobbying.

By Catholic News Agency, January 5, 2018, 12:05 PM

Several Catholic bishops’ call for clarity and compassion on sexual identity issues such as transgenderism drew the ire of a dissenting Catholic group which is part of a well-funded LGBT activism network.

New Ways Ministry’s executive director Francis DeBernardo encouraged his group’s supporters Dec. 18 to write the four bishops who signed the recent letter. Claiming gender transition helps people “become closer to God,” he said the letter is “denying transgender experience” and “promotes a false scenario about how gender topics are being taught to children.”

The Dec. 15 letter “Created Male and Female” was published on the website of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Catholic signers included Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia, who chairs the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth; Bishop James Conley of Lincoln, chair of the bishops’ Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage; Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, chair of the bishops’ Committee for Religious Liberty; and Bishop Joseph Bambera of Scranton, who chairs the Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs.

The religious leaders stressed that male and female are God-given differences that must be publicly acknowledged, and that those who are confused about their own identity deserve authentic support.


7. Court Strikes Down Baltimore Law Forcing Pregnancy Centers to Promote Abortions.

By Steven Ertelt, Life News, January 5, 2018, 5:41 PM

In a decision with major national implications for pregnancy centers across the country, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit unanimously affirmed that a Baltimore City ordinance requiring pro-life pregnancy care centers to post signs promoting abortions violated their First Amendment free speech rights.

In contrast to decisions by the Ninth Circuit which validated a similar law in California, the Fourth Circuit found that the Baltimore ordinance was not commercial or professional speech.

The decision will help other pregnancy centers fighting similiar laws elsewhere.

The Catholic Association, which filed an amicus brief in the case, also responded to the decision.

Ashley McGuire told LifeNews: “Today the Fourth Circuit issued a common sense ruling protecting crisis pregnancy centers from being forced to advertise for abortion. This is a decisive victory for the free speech rights of these centers, which serve women and offer them true choices and hope when they are in difficult situations. The court was clear in its ruling, arguing that efforts to force the centers to advertise for abortion amount to “compel[ling] a politically and religiously motivated group to convey a message fundamentally at odds with its core believes and mission.” We now look to the Supreme Court to put an end once and for all to the unconstitutional bullying of pregnancy clinics.”


8. International Religious Freedom Commission issues bi-partisan letter supporting Iranian protesters.

By Christopher White, Crux, January 5, 2018

A bi-partisan group of current and past heads of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) have joined together to offer their support for Iranian government protesters.

In an open-letter published on Thursday, nine leading religious liberty experts praised the pro-democracy protesters in Iran and condemned the government’s use of force against them.

Signers of the letter include Professor Daniel Mark of Villanova University, Professor Robert George of Princeton, Leonard Leo of the Federalist Society, and Jesuit Father Thomas Reese.

“A clear signal should be sent that human rights issues – above all, the regime’s treatment of dissidents – will be at the top of the agenda in any state-to-state negotiation, be it diplomatic or economic,” urged members of the USCIRF.


9. Court strikes down Baltimore law on anti-abortion centers.

By Denise Lavoie, Associated Press, January 5, 2018, 6:39 PM

A Baltimore law that required an anti-abortion pregnancy counseling center to post disclaimers in its waiting room is unconstitutional, a federal appeals court ruled Friday.

The 4th Circuit upheld a 2016 ruling by a U.S. District Court judge, finding that despite seven years of litigation over the 2009 law, the city has not identified a single example of a woman who walked into the center’s waiting room believing that she could obtain an abortion there.

The court found that the law compelled “a politically and religiously motivated group to convey a message fundamentally at odds with its core belief and mission.”