1. Church, School and the High Court.

The Wall Street Journal, July 1, 2019, Pg. A18, Review & Outlook

Fresh off upholding the Bladensburg Cross, the Supreme Court has taken another case with even more at stake for religious liberty. On Friday the Justices agreed to hear a challenge that involves Montana’s Blaine Amendment, a constitutional provision that bars tax-credit scholarships from going to religious schools.

In 2015 lawmakers in Helena passed Montana’s first school-choice program. Students wanting to attend a private school could receive money from a nonprofit scholarship fund. Donors contributing to such funds, in turn, could get a state tax credit of up to $150. More than a dozen states have implemented similar programs with wide success.

But Montana’s constitution includes a Blaine Amendment, a provision saying that no public dollars may flow, directly or indirectly, to any sectarian organization. In the late 19th century many states passed these amendments as a hostile response to Catholic immigrants. Montana’s dates to 1889.

The parents in the Montana case, who are represented by the Institute for Justice, say this lack of clarity means that each year “tens of thousands of children are denied educational opportunities.” By taking Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue, the Justices have shown an interest in resolving the ambiguity. The case is a chance to strike the anti-religious bigotry of Blaine Amendments from American law and further restore the original meaning of the First Amendment.


2. Catholics Debate the Future of Priestly Celibacy, A shortage of priests has led to calls to ease rules that have governed the church for centuries.

By Francis X. Rocca, Wall Street Journal Online, June 27, 2019, 5:55 PM

This October, bishops meeting at the Vatican will consider the possibility of ordaining married men to serve as priests in remote parts of the Amazon region. If the Synod of Bishops recommends such a move to ease celibacy rules and Pope Francis approves, it will be the first time in a thousand years that the Roman Catholic Church has routinely ordained married men as priests.

Though the change is proposed as an exception for a region where the church has struggled to recruit clergy, progressive Catholics hope, and conservatives fear, that it would set a precedent for expanding the practice to other areas, including parts of the U.S. and Europe. Germany’s Catholic bishops have already announced that they will study the question of clerical celibacy in preparation for a discussion on whether it should remain a rule for the country’s priests.

Both sides in the debate over clerical celibacy agree that regularly ordaining married priests would, for better or worse, reshape Catholics’ understanding of the priesthood. Catholic doctrine doesn’t require clerical celibacy, and married priests were common in the early church, but celibacy was always honored as a sign of special commitment. “An unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord, how he may please the Lord. But a married man is anxious about the things of the world, how he may please his wife, and he is divided,” wrote St. Paul in his First Letter to the Corinthians.

Today, the relatively small Eastern Catholic Churches that follow the pope observe Orthodox practice, which allows the ordination of married men as priests though not as bishops. In recent decades, some married former Protestant clergy, almost all of them Anglicans, have been ordained as Roman Catholic priests following their conversion to Catholicism.

Although married priests today aren’t expected to abstain from sex, priests are never allowed to marry after ordination, a rule that Father Selin says harks back to the ancient tradition of abstinence for the ordained.


3. New head of bioethics center says new technology raises moral questions.

By Charles Collins, Crux, July 1, 2019

When church leaders in the United States face new bioethical questions – such as those surrounding abortion, euthanasia, or gender identity – they often turn to the Philadelphia-based National Catholic Bioethics Center.

The center has been working with Catholic institutions such as hospitals since 1972, and publishes The National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly.

It was announced this month that Dr. Joseph Meaney, the director of international outreach and expansion for Human Life International, will be taking over as the president of the NCBC.

Speaking to Crux, he said bioethics is “an almost exponentially growing field.”

“First, the unprecedented rapid pace of technological discoveries, particularly in genetics and biology. Second, multiple contemporary ethical systems that do not view the dignity of the human person in ways that harmonize with the Gospels or Church teaching,” Meaney explained.

He said the greatest challenges in the coming years will be “from gender ideology issues such as sex-change surgeries and drugs and also end of life issues, particularly assisted suicide and euthanasia.”


4. Blessed John Henry Newman to be canonized October 13.

By Courtney Grogan, Catholic News Agency, July 1, 2019, 04:00 AM

The Vatican announced Monday that Blessed Cardinal John Henry Newman will be canonized on October 13 in Rome.

During a consistory of cardinals July 1, Pope Francis decreed that Newman and four other blesseds will be canonized together in St. Peter’s Square.

Indian Sister Marian Thresia, founder of the Congregation of the Sisters of the Holy Family; Italian Sister Giuseppina Vannini; Brazilian Sister Dulce Lopes Pontes, and Marguerite Bays, a Swiss consecrated sister of the Third Order of St. Francis will be canonized alongside Newman.

Their canonizations will take place during the 2019 Special Synod of Bishops from the Pan-Amazonian region to be held at the Vatican Oct. 6-27.


5. Eugenics devotees prove that old lies don’t die.

By George F. Will, The Washington Post, June 30, 2019, Pg. A23, Opinion

If you think we have reached peak stupidity — that America’s per capita quantity has never been higher — there is solace, of sorts, in Daniel Okrent’s guided tour through the immigration debate that was heading toward a nasty legislative conclusion a century ago. “The Guarded Gate: Bigotry, Eugenics, and the Law That Kept Two Generations of Jews, Italians, and Other European Immigrants Out of America” provides evidence that today’s public arguments are comparatively enlightened.

Late in the 19th century, immigration surged, as did alarm about it, especially in society’s upper crust — particularly its Boston portion, which thought that the wrong sort of people was coming. Darwinian theory and emerging genetic science were bowdlerized by bad scientists, faux scientists and numerous philistine axgrinders with political agendas bent on arguing for engineering a better stock of American humans through immigration restrictions and eugenics — selective breeding. 

The canonical text of the immigration-eugenics complex, Madison Grant’s “The Passing of the Great Race,” is available today in at least eight editions and is frequently cited in the Internet’s fetid swamps of white-supremacy sites. At the 1946 Nuremberg “Doctors’ Trial,” Nazi defendants invoked that book as well as the U.S. Supreme Court’s Buck v. Bell decision upholding states’ sterilization of “defectives” (Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, a eugenics enthusiast: “Three generations of imbeciles are enough”) and America’s severely restrictive Immigration Act of 1924. It based national quotas on 1890 immigration data — before the surge of the “motley throng.” Okrent writes, “These men didn’t say they were ‘following orders,’ in the self-exonerating language of the moment; they said they were following Americans.”

Four years before the 1924 act, 76 percent of immigrants came from Eastern or Southern Europe. After it, 11 percent did. Some of those excluded went instead to Auschwitz. 


6. Pope Praises Trump-Kim Meeting as Significant Gesture, Raises Hopes for Peace.

Reuters, June 30, 2019

Pope Francis praised on Sunday the meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and said he hoped it would lead to peace.

“In the last few hours we saw in Korea a good example of the culture of encounter. I salute the protagonists, with a prayer that such a significant gesture will be a further step on the road to peace, not only on that peninsula, but for the good of the entire world,” he told thousands of people in St. Peter’s Square for his weekly address and blessing.

When he met the pope last year, South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who is Catholic, relayed a verbal invitation from Kim to Francis for the pontiff to visit North Korea.


7. Trump administration agrees to delay health care rule.

The Associated Press, June 30, 2019, 6:10 AM

The Trump administration has agreed to postpone implementing a rule allowing medical workers to decline performing abortions or other treatments on moral or religious grounds while the so-called “conscience” rule is challenged in a California court.

The rule was supposed to take effect on July 22 but the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and its opponents in a California lawsuit mutually agreed Friday to delay a final ruling on the matter until Nov. 22.

The agency called it the “most efficient way to adjudicate” the rule.


8. Religious freedom may be a no-brainer, but it needs to be relearned.

By Father Jeffrey F. Kirby, Crux, June 30, 2019

There are certain truths about God and religious observance that any person of good will can discern and acknowledge. For example, we accept that we shouldn’t kill or cause harm to others who disagree with us about divine realities. Also, we realize that we shouldn’t use coercion or violence to intimidate or force others to convert or accept our doctrinal beliefs.

While these might seem like no-brainers – pretty obvious to devout worshipers of God – it seems our fallen race is in constant need of re-learning them.

Many believers throughout Church history, who have less theological innocence than the ancient Israelites, have betrayed the Lord’s teaching. They have sought violence rather than evangelization. They have settled for coercion rather than doing the real work of persuasion. In such cases, the Lord – as with James and John – admonishes and denounces them.

It should never be forgotten that the Gospel in incompatible with any form of forced conversion or religious bigotry. It will always shine out and condemn any offenses against freedom and human dignity, especially when these pertain to the interior depths of a person’s religious belief and adherence.


9. How five bishops could deliver a powerful pro-immigrant gesture.

By John L. Allen Jr., Editor, Crux, June 30, 2019

One of the bigger Vatican stories this week came in the unlikely form of a papal reaction to a photograph. On Wednesday, the Vatican released a statement saying Francis was heartsick about the image of a father and daughter from El Salvador who drowned while attempting to cross the Rio Grande to reach the United States.

“The pope is profoundly saddened by their death, and [he] is praying for them and for all migrants who have lost their lives while seeking to flee war and misery,” said the statement signed by the director ad interim of the Vatican’s press office, Alessandro Gisotti.

Some observers may be tempted to say, “Of course that’s what Francis would say … we all know he’s pro-immigrant.”

It’s worth asking, however, how the pope’s compassion for migrants has become such common knowledge. It’s not primarily because Francis talks about immigrants a lot, although he does. Mostly, it’s because of his gestures – scores of them, one after another, in which the pontiff has found imaginative ways to make the point.

Granted, some prelates may be tempted to think that this is not the time to be trying to make grand social and political statements, given the damage done to the Church’s moral authority by the clerical abuse crisis. However, as any sports coach will tell you, the only way to get back into the game is by getting back into the game.

Whether such an assembly is feasible is anybody’s guess, but the point is that the U.S. will need to think creatively about how to keep getting their message across – especially, perhaps, at a moment in American history when a sizeable share of the population doesn’t seem eager to hear it.


10. As Trump and Kim meet in North Korea, Pope Francis prays for peace.

By Courtney Grogan, Catholic News Agency, June 30, 2019, 5:30 AM

Pope Francis prayed for peace and the successful outcome of the meeting Sunday between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at the DMZ.

“In the last few hours we have witnessed a good example of the culture of encounter in Korea,” Pope Francis said June 30 at the end of his Angelus address.

“I greet the protagonists, with the prayer that this significant gesture constitutes a further step on the path of peace, not only on that peninsula, but in favor of the whole world,” the pope said.

Trump became the first sitting U.S. president to set foot in North Korea when he crossed the demarcation line that divides the Korean peninsula in the demilitarized zone, or DMZ, June 30.


11. Supreme Court won’t revive Alabama ban on abortion procedure, State proposed outlawing common second-trimester method in 2016 law.

By Robert Barnes, The Wasington Post, July 29, 2019, Pg. A8

The Supreme Court declined Friday to revive an Alabama law passed in 2016 that would ban the most common method of second-trimester abortion.

That state was among a handful that proposed criminalizing the dilation and evacuation (D&E) procedure, which is used in almost all abortions performed at 15 weeks and later. Alabama called it the Unborn Child Protection From Dismemberment Abortion Act.

It has never gone into effect, because a district court judge and then a reluctant panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit said that, under Supreme Court precedent, it placed an undue burden on a woman’s right to abortion before fetal viability. 

“This case serves as a stark reminder that our abortion jurisprudence has spiraled out of control.” Clarence Thomas, the only justice to comment on Friday’s order. 


12. Pope warns against ‘lukewarm’ Christians at Vatican Mass.

The Associated Press, June 29, 2019

Pope Francis has exhorted the faithful to avoid being smug or “lukewarm” Christians.

Francis celebrated Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica on Saturday to mark the feast day of the Apostles Peter and Paul, Rome’s patron saints. The pope encouraged humility among the faithful.

Francis said “whenever we consider ourselves smarter or better than others. That is the beginning of the end.”


13. Pope: Jesus is looking for witnesses, not ‘religion editors’.

By Inés San Martín, Crux, June 29, 2019

Being a follower of Christ does not mean being curious about who he was or craving religious news, Pope Francis said on Saturday during the Mass for the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul. Jesus, he said, is not interested in polls, nor is he looking for “front page” Christians.

“We may be curious about Jesus, or interested in church matters or religious news,” Francis said. “We may open computer sites and the papers, and talk about holy things.”

Yet, he asked, is this done to be up-to-date with what people are saying?

“Jesus does not care about polls or past history,” the pope said. “He is not looking for religion editors, much less ‘front page’ Christians. He is looking for witnesses who say to him each day: ‘Lord, you are my life’.”

The pontiff’s words came during his homily in St. Peter’s Basilica. During the ceremony, he handed the pallium, a small wool white garment that goes around the neck and down to the chest – to the 31 Metropolitan Archbishops he created during the past year. The list includes Archbishop Wilton Gregory, recently transferred to Washington D.C. from Atlanta.


14. Supreme Court Affirms ‘Peace Cross’, Justices vote 7-2 in key First Amendment case.

By Joan Frawley Desmond, National Catholic Register, June 28, 2019

The U.S. Supreme Court served up a major win for religious-freedom advocates, ruling that a cross commemorating fallen World War I soldiers could remain on state land.

Issued June 20, the 7-2 decision in American Legion v. American Humanist Association ruled that a 40-foot “Peace Cross” memorial in Bladensburg, Maryland, did not violate the Establishment Clause and could remain in place, signaling the justices’ growing unease with legal precedent on similar First Amendment disputes.

As the term came to a close, the Bladensburg Cross decision remained the most significant opinion this term for Americans concerned about life and religious-freedom issues, despite hopes that a new conservative majority might have a more substantial impact this term, following Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s arrival on the court after a tumultuous Senate confirmation battle in September.

“Conservative hopes and liberal fears were both unrealized this term, as the anticipated effects of adding Brett Kavanaugh to a court recently joined by Neil Gorsuch were simply less than what many thought they would be,” Gerard Bradley, a constitutional scholar at the University of Notre Dame law school, told the Register. 

Looking ahead, he will be carefully watching “the justices’ decisions about which cases to hear in the next term and then the term after that, before the possibility of renewed Democratic appointments to the court changes the court yet again.”


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