1. Pope Calls for Nuclear Disarmament on Korean Peninsula: Calm debate needed to avoid polarizing the international community, says pontiff.

By Francis X. Rocca, The Wall Street Journal, January 9, 2018, Pg. A6

Pope Francis   called for stronger efforts for nuclear disarmament, particularly on the Korean Peninsula, the day before representatives of South and North Korea were due to meet for their first official bilateral talks in two years.

“It is of paramount importance to support every effort at dialogue” between the countries to “increase mutual trust and ensure a peaceful future for the Korean people and the entire world,” the pope said on Monday in his annual address to ambassadors accredited to the Vatican.

Previous popes have taught that a state may be justified in possessing nuclear arms to deter attacks from another power, though only as a temporary expedient with the ultimate goal of abolishing the weapons.

But in November, Pope Francis seemed to eliminate that justification, stating that even the mere possession of nuclear arms is to be “firmly condemned,” given the risk of an accidental detonation.

The pope on Monday stressed the historic role of the U.S. in multilateral diplomacy and peace negotiations, noting that he was speaking on the 100th anniversary of President Woodrow Wilson’s proposal for a League of Nations, the forerunner of the U.N.

“Future acts of aggression are not deterred by the law of fear, but rather by the power of calm reason that encourages dialogue and mutual understanding as a means of resolving differences,” the pope said.


2. Pope’s speech to diplomats reflects his Latin American background.

By Austen Ivereigh, Crux, January 9, 2018

As it always does, the Pope’s New Year’s speech to diplomats yesterdayranged over a broad landscape of issues and conflicts in a troubled world. But while it was about many things, the landmark foreign policy speech was really about one thing, globalization – and especially the Latin American Church’s view of it.

Viewed from “the north Atlantic” the speech appeared to defy the usual left-right categories in expressing as much concern for the family, religious freedom and the unborn as it did for migrants, the environment and nuclear weapons.

But in Francis’s world-view, the threat in each case is linked to what the Latin-American bishops gathered in Aparecida, Brazil, in 2007 called a “change of era.” They meant by this a technology-driven globalization that was bringing with it a mentality and set of values at odds with the continent’s humanist, Christian traditions.

This wasn’t, to be clear, simply an anti-modern rant.

In the Aparecida document the change of era is portrayed as bringing about a breakdown in the bonds that bind. The forces of dissolution came from what it called “a kind of new cultural colonization through the imposition of artificial cultures, belittling of local cultures and tending to impose a uniform culture in all sectors of society.”

Rather than a true, organic culture arising from the values and traditions of a particular people, it is a ‘Coca-Colonization’ – values imposed by the technocratic values of capitalism and consumerism, which may be associated with America but are in reality stateless.

Francis’s program is to strengthen the bonds of politics and civil society to resist the colonization of technocracy, and yesterday was his bid to persuade the world’s nations to join him.

It expressed, above all the view from the periphery, which – as he has often said –  offers a clearer vantage point from the center. Yesterday, the diplomats assigned to the Vatican got a chance to look at the world through the same lens.


3. Cardinal Pell accuser dies before sexual abuse trial begins.

By Catholic News Agency, January 8, 2018, 5:00 PM

The legal case against Cardinal George Pell of Australia has taken an unexpected turn, after the death of Damian Dignan, who accused Pell of committing acts of sexual abuse.

Dignan died of leukemia last week in the Australian town of Ballarat, which will likely impact a committal hearing scheduled for March 5 addressing the sexual abuse charges levelled against Pell.

In March 2016, Dignan and two former classmates from St. Alipius school in Ballarat who together accused Pell of inappropriate sexual behavior when they were minors. The cardinal had previously been accused of acts of child sexual abuse dating as far back as 1961.

Without the sworn testimony of Dignan in court, it is possible that prosecutors could drop the case altogether. However, Victorian Police did not confirm or deny the plausibility of this happening, especially because the prosecution could still use sworn statements or evidence given under oath made before Dignan’s death.

In addition, up to 50 witnesses are still expected to testify during the upcoming committal hearing.


4. High Court Won’t Hear Challenge to State Law Letting Merchants Refuse Service to Gay People: Mississippi case is latest example of legal fallout following Supreme Court’s 2015 decision extending marriage rights to same-sex couples.

By Jess Bravin, The Wall Street Journal, January 8, 2018, 8:08 PM

The Supreme Court declined Monday to consider a challenge to a Mississippi law authorizing individuals and merchants to deny service to same-sex couples on the basis of “sincerely held religious beliefs or moral convictions.”

The brief order comes as the justices grapple with a case posing many of the same issues in a different context: a Colorado baker’s claim that the First Amendment exempts him from a civil-rights law requiring him to sell wedding cakes to same-sex couples on the same terms as heterosexual customers. The baker, Jack Phillips of the Masterpiece Cakeshop in Lakewood, Colo., says his Christian beliefs frown on same-sex marriage; the case was argued in December and a decision is expected before July.

Gay-rights groups and individuals, viewing the statute as an effort to undermine rights the Supreme Court has extended to gay people over the past 20 years, sued to strike down the Mississippi law. The plaintiffs argued that the measure effectively enshrined specific religious beliefs in state law, violating the U.S. Constitution’s prohibition on official establishment of religion.

In 2016, a federal district judge in Jackson, Miss., temporarily blocked the law from implementation while litigation proceeded. But a federal appeals court in New Orleans later dismissed the suit, finding that the plaintiffs lacked legal standing to challenge the law because none could show they had suffered sufficient harm from it.

The Supreme Court’s action Monday leaves that ruling in place.