1. Let’s Talk About the Black Abortion Rate, In New York City, thousands more black babies are aborted each year than born alive. 

By Jason L. Riley, Columnist, The Wall Street Journal, July 11, 2018, Pg. A15, Opinion

As Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination tees up another national debate about reproductive rights, is it too much to ask that abortion’s impact on the black population be part of the discussion?

When the Supreme Court decided Roe v. Wade in 1973, polling showed that blacks were less likely than whites to support abortion.

In the intervening decades, those views shifted. … A Pew Research Center survey taken last year found that 50% of Hispanics, 58% of whites and 62% of blacks now say abortion should be legal in all or most cases.

Social scientists aren’t sure why black attitudes toward abortion have changed. One theory is that as more blacks migrated out of the conservative Deep South and settled in other regions of the country with more liberal views on reproductive rights, their attitudes changed accordingly. Another possibility is that people with higher incomes and more education tend to be pro-choice, and since the early 1970s the socioeconomic status of blacks has increased dramatically.

What’s not in doubt is the outsize toll that abortion has taken on the black population post-Roe. In New York City, thousands more black babies are aborted than born alive each year, and the abortion rate among black mothers is more than three times higher than it is for white mothers. According to a city Health Department report released in May, between 2012 and 2016 black mothers terminated 136,426 pregnancies and gave birth to 118,127 babies. By contrast, births far surpassed abortions among whites, Asians and Hispanics.

Nationally, black women terminate pregnancies at far higher rates than other women as well. In 2014, 36% of all abortions were performed on black women, who are just 13% of the female population.

When you combine the amount of black violent behavior directed at other blacks with the number of pregnancies terminated by black women, the rate at which blacks willingly end the lives of one another is chilling and far surpasses what goes on within other racial and ethnic groups. Racial disparities in abortion rates are no less disturbing than racial disparities in income, crime, poverty and school suspensions. Why are the people who want to lecture the rest of us about the value of black lives pretending otherwise?


2. Nominee’s record on education, In cases involving schools, he has sided with religious interests. 

By Laura Meckler, The Washington Post, July 11, 2018, Pg. A6

Judge Brett Kavanaugh, President Trump’s choice for the Supreme Court, has defended the use of taxpayer money for religious schools and backed student-led prayers at high school football games, siding with religious interests in the debate over government entanglement with religion.

In private practice, Kavanaugh backed the government when it sought to support religious interests and challenged schools when they attempted to exclude religious groups.

Together, legal experts say, these cases suggest he would continue the court’s steady shift from a strict separation between government and religion to a far more permeable relationship — a matter with implications for public and private schools.

Kavanaugh is the product of religious education. He graduated from Georgetown Preparatory School in Maryland’s Montgomery County, a Jesuit school where every class begins with a prayer. His daughters attend Blessed Sacrament, a Catholic school in Northwest Washington.


3. Catholics rock the courthouse. 

By Kathleen Parker, The Washington Post, July 10, 2018, 8:16 PM

Even before President Trump announced his nomination Monday of federal appeals court judge Brett M. Kavanaugh to fill departing Justice Anthony M. Kennedy’s slot on the Supreme Court, the foul scent of anti-Catholicism began seeping into public commentary.

In particular, an article Monday morning that quickly earned ire in the choir came from Daily Beast writer (and Yale Law-educated) Jay Michaelson. While declaring that he didn’t want to engage in anti-papist conspiracies, Michaelson nevertheless proceeded to suggest that an effort is being fueled by dark money to name federal judges who “reflect rigid, conservative dogmas.” His subject was Leonard Leo, executive vice president (albeit currently on leave) of the Federalist Society, which has worked closely with the president to create a list of possible nominees. The well-respected Leo is painted by Michaelson as a sinister, outside secret force pushing Catholics to fill the bench.

Leo is certainly influential, but so are lots of people, and Michaelson’s article was a tad dark-and-stormy-ish. It detailed Leo’s various Catholic associations and practices, including his habit of attending daily Mass — which many Catholics do, including liberals.

It is certainly true that jurists who received Jesuit educations tend to rise to the top. This is because, as far as I can tell, you can’t get a better education in this country than by the Jesuits.

It does seem, however, that being Catholic isn’t a bad idea if you want to ascend to the Supreme Court. Then again, it’s also a good idea to earn high marks in school, excel at the best law schools, clerk for Supreme Court justices and live a life of integrity, honesty and dignity. That some justices are also informed by a faith that encourages service and a reverence for life doesn’t bother me, just as long as the Constitution lives loudly within them.


4. Why Russian Orthodox chief left his chair empty at pope’s summit. 

By John L. Allen Jr., Crux, July 11, 2018

The “empty chair” has been a symbol of a critical player’s absence from a conversation, usually with the suggestion that he or she has some explaining to do for not showing up.

Had there had been such an empty chair at last Saturday’s ecumenical summit in Bari, Italy, hosted by Pope Francis with the aim of praying for peace in the Middle East, it obviously would have been directed at Patriarch Kirill of Moscow, head of the Russian Orthodox Church and the day’s most glaring no-show.

Granted, Kirill did send what a Vatican aide described as a “beautiful letter” in response to the pope’s invitation and also dispatched a senior representative in the person of Metropolitan Hilarion, in effect his top deputy. Nonetheless, Saturday’s event was styled as a gathering of patriarchs from Eastern churches, and the absence of the leader of the denomination that represents roughly two-thirds of all the Orthodox Christians in the world still was keenly felt.

Kirill’s decision not to attend the July 7 gathering in Bari was especially striking given that, in a sense, the whole thing was his idea.

To be sure, there are several fairly clear reasons why Kirill may have felt that showing up in Bari would have been a bridge too far.

For one thing, Moscow’s relationships with some of the other Orthodox churches of the world aren’t always the best. That’s the reason the Russian Orthodox didn’t participate, for instance, in the “Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church,” a pan-Orthodox summit hosted in Crete by Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople in June 2016.

The Russians cited specific objections to the composition of the council in explaining its decision, including the fact that representatives of the Antiochian, Bulgarian and Georgian churches weren’t in attendance. Beneath all that, however, is the fact that Constantinople and Moscow are natural rivals for preeminence in Orthodoxy – the Patriarch of Constantinople traditionally is the “first among equals,” but Moscow has both the numbers and the resources to be the real 800-pound gorilla.

Right now, Moscow and Constantinople are wrangling over a possible move by the latter to recognize the independence of the Orthodox church in Ukraine, something Hilarion recently warned would “mean a schism, similar to the schism of 1054.”

In addition, several theological disputes still loom large in the relationship between Moscow and Rome. Hilarion reminded the world of one of those disputes, over the procession of the Holy Spirit, in a late April interview with Russian TV. Asked about comments by Bartholomew that reunion between Catholicism and Orthodoxy is “inevitable” at some future point, Hilarion expressed strong skepticism.

Many Russian Orthodox, including a strong cross-section of the church’s politically influential monks are leery of the entire ecumenical enterprise, seeing it as an invitation to paper over differences and water down the church’s distinct identity.

Most basically, perhaps, Moscow has long feared that “reunion” with Rome would actually mean absorption, meaning an imbalanced relationship in which the pope would always be the senior partner and would therefore set the terms.

Thus, an invitation from the pontiff to take part in a high-profile summit on Catholic turf – even if Bari contains the relics of St. Nicholas, making it a popular pilgrimage site for Russian Orthodox believers too – likely triggered one of the Russians’ deepest historical anxieties about where all this is heading.

While those points may contribute to an explanation, they don’t address whether skipping Bari was ultimately a wise move for Kirill. From a realpolitik point of view, one could argue that he would have increased his leverage both with Rome and the rest of the Orthodox world by showing up; in terms of more idealistic considerations, one could also suggest that petty doctrinal differences should yield to the pressing cause of a united Christian witness in favor of Middle East peace.

It should be said, by the way, that Kirill’s non-attendance doesn’t mean that Catholics and the Russian Orthodox can’t come together for the Middle East; in fact, the TASS news agency recently reported that the two sides will collaborate on rebuilding churches in Syria destroyed by ISIS.

Yet it’s not difficult to imagine some skeptics wondering, if the heads of the Catholic and Russian Orthodox churches can’t even be in the same room to pray for the Middle East, whether there’s much point in any ecumenical endeavors.

In any event, Kirill may well feel he doesn’t have a great deal to lose by allowing his chair to have remained empty.


5. Vatican drafting guidelines on proper uses for sold churches. 

By Associated Press, July 10, 2018, 4:42 PM

The Vatican is drafting guidelines to help Catholic dioceses find appropriate ways to decommission unneeded churches so they don’t end up as discos, gymnasiums or gelato shops.

The Vatican’s culture ministry is teaming up with Rome’s Jesuit-run Pontifical Gregorian University and the Italian bishops’ conference to host an international conference in November on managing the sale of churches and handling of their assets. The event already has a title: “Doesn’t God Dwell Here Anymore?”

Culture Minister Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi told reporters on Tuesday that many dioceses in Europe, North America and Australia have more churches than they need or can maintain, thanks to an increasingly secularized society, fewer church-going Catholics and financial constraints.

The Vatican wants to ensure the buildings maintain some of the spiritual, cultural and social value they had as consecrated places of worship, Ravasi said.