1. By expanding sainthood, Francis reflects new realities of anti-Christian violence.

By John L. Allen Jr., Crux, July 12, 2017

Pope Francis on Tuesday may have untied a theological knot that’s long hobbled efforts to venerate the memory of contemporary victims of anti-Christian persecution, which is this: How do you make somebody who died for their faith a saint, when, technically speaking, he or she wasn’t actually a martyr?

Traditionally, a “martyr” means someone who died for their religious beliefs, the test of which is that they were killed in odium fidei, or “hatred of the faith.” Think early Christians, for instance, put to death for refusing to sacrifice to pagan gods or to worship the emperor. In that scenario, the motives of the people killing Christians have to be explicitly religious, not political or economic or anything else.

While there are still plenty of examples of that kind of martyrdom in the 21st century – for instance, Christians in India who die for refusing to take part in “re-conversion” ceremonies to Hinduism, or French Father Jacques Hamel, the 85-year-old priest killed in 2016 by two Muslim men professing loyalty to ISIS – in a large number of other modern cases, the traditional test just doesn’t fit.

In a motu proprio, or legal act, by Pope Francis dated June 11, a third path to sainthood has been opened up along martyrdom and “heroic virtue,” the two traditional requirements for a halo: Sainthood on account of the “offer of life,” for cases in which believers “following closely in the footsteps and teachings of the Lord Jesus, freely and voluntarily offered their life for others, and persevered until death.”

“It’s certain,” according to the pope’s motu proprio, “that the heroic offer of one’s life, suggested and sustained by charity, expresses a true, full and exemplary imitation of Christ, and because of that, it’s worthy of that admiration that the community of the faithful usually reserves to those who have voluntarily accepted the martyrdom of blood or who’ve exercised Christian virtue to a heroic degree.”

The bottom line is that Francis’s adjustment to the sainthood rules on Tuesdayisn’t just insider Vatican baseball. It’s a gesture of solidarity with all those Christians around the world today putting their lives on the line on the basis of their faith – and, given the staggering number of such folks in the early 21st century, it could end up being among the most consequential moves he’s made.


2. Catholic Malta legalizes gay marriage over church objection.

By Stephen Calleja, Associated Press, July 12, 2017, 7:43 AM

The predominantly Roman Catholic island nation of Malta is set to legalize gay marriage, joining much of Western Europe by replacing the traditional “you are now husband and wife” declaration in civil ceremonies with “you are now spouses.”

The Catholic Church had opposed the legislation, which the Labor government promised to introduce as its first law after winning a second term last month and which both opposition parties support. The only question heading into Wednesday’s parliamentary vote was whether there would be any votes against.

The aim of the law, piloted by Equality Minister Helena Dalli, is to “modernize the institution of marriage” to extend it to all consenting adult couples.

Archbishop Charles Scicluna has opposed the gay marriage law, reflecting the church’s longstanding view that marriage is only between a man and woman.


3. Judge: Anti-abortion leader’s attorneys violated court order.

By Sudhin Thanawala, Associated Press, July 11, 2017, 9:20 AM

A federal judge said Tuesday he will hold attorneys for the head of an anti-abortion group in contempt after links to videos that the judge had barred from release appeared on their website.

U.S. District Court Judge William Orrick said attorneys Steve Cooley and Brentford J. Ferreira had violated his injunction.

The two attorneys represent David Daleiden, a leader of the Center for Medical Progress. The center has released several secretly recorded videos that it says show Planned Parenthood employees selling fetal tissue for profit, which is illegal.


4. Pope Francis: ‘Europe must be federal’.

By Staff Reporter, Catholic Herald, July 11, 2017

Pope Francis has reportedly said that Europe “must become a federal community or it will no longer count for anything in the world”.

His comments were apparently made in an interview with Eugenio Scalfari, the 93-year-old La Repubblica journalist who does not record interviews or take notes.

Scalfari writes that he told Pope Francis that Europe must become a federal state if it is to deal with the ongoing migrant crisis, to which the Pope responded, “True, I have repeatedly raised this.”

Pope Francis then continued, “The countries [of Europe] will act if they recognise one truth: either Europe becomes a federal community or it will no longer count for anything in the world.”