1A cardinal, a terrace and another scandal for Pope Francis.

By Nicole Winfield, Associated Press, July 17, 2017, 7:01 AM

Now the renovations at Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone’s flat have sparked a criminal trial that shines a light on how some of that money was spent.

The Vatican on Tuesday will put its past hospital president, Giuseppe Profiti, and former hospital treasurer, Massimo Spina, on trial on charges they diverted hospital donations to renovate Bertone’s retirement fixer-upper.

It’s the latest financial scandal to strike the Holy See as Francis works to clean up centuries of shady business dealings in the walled-in, 44-hectare offshore city state, the world’s smallest.

Profiti, who had been appointed hospital president by Bertone in 2008, has said the 422,000 euros in hospital foundation funds that he used to spruce up Bertone’s home was an investment, since he intended to use it for fundraising events for the hospital.

Bertone has defended his apartment’s relatively large size — some 3,230 square feet (300 square meters) — by saying other cardinals have even bigger apartments and that he lives there with a secretary and three nuns who help care for him, and that he needed the space for his archive, library and chapel.


2. Build a chapel, and perhaps they won’t come: A newly built worship space in a Pennsylvania cornfield is an effort to deter a proposed pipeline.

By Julie Zauzmer, The Washington Post, July 17, 2017, Pg. A1

Fischer has always known this land as sacred.

Now the 74-year-old nun and her sisters in their Catholic order suddenly find themselves fighting to protect the land from an energy company that wants to put a natural gas pipeline on it.

“This just goes totally against everything we believe in — we believe in sustenance of all creation,” she said.

The pipeline company first sought without success to negotiate with the nuns. Now as Williams Cos. tries to seize the land by eminent domain, the order is gearing up for a fight in the courtroom — and a possible fight in the field, as well.

There, smack in the path of the planned pipeline, the nuns have dedicated a new outdoor chapel.

U.S. appeals court judges have ruled inconsistently on whether federal law protects religious groups from eminent domain in such cases. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit, which covers Delaware, New Jersey and the part of Pennsylvania where the nuns reside, has yet to issue a ruling on the matter. Legal observers say a case could make its way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Williams isn’t buying the land outright from farm owners, just paying for an easement to dig up their farmland and put a pipe in — and then return the land to them. Stockton said the company will compensate farmers for lost crops and will return to inspect whether agricultural output over the pipeline returns to normal.

Another federal law, the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000, could more specifically protect the nuns, depending on a judge’s interpretation. That law seeks to shield religious institutions from land-use laws that would otherwise impose a substantial burden on their religious exercise. But the nation’s appellate courts have offered differing opinions on whether the law applies to eminent domain. The 3rd Circuit, where the Adorers are located, has never ruled on that question, several lawyers familiar with this area of law said, so the nuns may be the ones to set the precedent.


3. U.S. Expert Flies to Britain to Examine Baby Charlie Gard.

By Reuters, July 17, 2017, 6:15 AM

A U.S doctor offering experimental treatment to a critically ill British baby is due in London this week to help persuade a judge to keep the boy’s life support switched on, in a case that has prompted a fierce debate around the world about medical ethics.

The U.S. doctor offering the treatment – Michio Hirano, a professor of neurology at New York’s Columbia University Medical Center – is due in London to examine Charlie for the first time and to meet other medical experts involved in the case.

The findings of the meeting will be reported to Judge Nicholas Francis who is expected to make a final decision on July 25.


4. Putting Sudan on notice: Extending the sanction review period is a good first step toward ending the crimes of a genocidal regime.

By Frank R. Wolf, The Washington Times, July 17, 2017, Pg. B3

On July 12 the Trump administration postponed a decision for 90 days on whether to continue to implement Executive Order 13761 regarding sanctions on Sudan that were established as the result of decades of violence, genocide and crimes against humanity.

Since 2011, the Sudanese government has continued to target Sudanese villages in the Nuba Mountains and other areas dropping thousands of bombs on them over the past six years, indiscriminately killing thousands of civilians including women and children. 

Then there is the latest report from the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom which states, “Religious freedom conditions in Sudan continued to deteriorate in 2016. Government officials arrested and prosecuted Christian leaders and marginalized the Christian community.” 

At the end of the last Administration, President Obama declared that Sudan had made progress and Executive Order 13761 was signed, setting a course for Sudan’s sanctions to expire July 12, 2017 if President Bashir maintained a cease fire in war torn parts of the country, improved access for desperately needed humanitarian relief, and cooperated on U.S. counter-terrorism efforts by sharing intelligence on regional conflicts.

However, six months is not enough time to fully monitor and determine the future of sanctions that have been in place for two decades, especially when the President of the country is an indicted war criminal.

I am grateful to President Trump for extending the review period so his administration has more time for fact-finding and comprehensive analysis. The United States must ensure that the genocidal government of Sudan will not use the lifting of sanctions as a means to acquire the capacity to commit more crimes in the future. I hope all who care about this issue will speak up as the Trump administration considers its next steps. To paraphrase one of my heroes, William Wilberforce, now that we know, we cannot look away.

Frank R. Wolf, a retired U.S. representative from Virginia, is a distinguished senior fellow at the 21st Century Wilberforce Initiative.


5. Agree or not, it’s good to know what Vatican insiders think of America.

By John L. Allen Jr., Crux, July 16, 2017

On Thursday, the Jesuit-run journal La Civiltà Cattolica, which is reviewed by the Vatican’s Secretariat of State prior to publication, carried an article by two close friends of Pope Francis arguing that a “Manichean vision” underlies a “a strange form of surprising ecumenism … between Evangelical fundamentalists and Catholic Integralists” in the United States.

Apart from its political significance, however, I’ll offer four longer-term notes about why the article matters.

First, the authors – Jesuit Father Antonio Spadaro, one of Francis’s closest collaborators, and Marcelo Figueroa, a longtime Protestant friend hand-picked by Francis to edit the Argentinian version of L’Osservatore Romano – clearly reflect the kind of views held by the pontiff. The Secretariat of State would not have signed off if the presumption wasn’t that Francis would approve.

Second, this is not just business as usual. It’s rare for a Vatican media outlet, even one that’s only semi-official, to comment directly on the politics of another nation, especially in a fashion that can’t help but be seen as fairly partisan.

Third, over time debate around the article may be less about Trump, and more about the accuracy of how the authors see American realities.

Among other criticisms, some say Spadaro and Figueroa conflate Fundamentalism, the Prosperity Gospel, and Dominion Theology, three distinct strands in American Christianity, creating an impression of Evangelical Protestantism as a single, undifferentiated mass.

Fourth, and perhaps most importantly, whatever one makes of Spadaro and Figueroa’s assessment of the United States, it’s not just them.

Bottom line: Suspicion of a latent “Manichean” streak is a time-honored Vatican take on America, which neither Pope Francis nor Spadaro and Figueroa invented, and which will still be there long after they’re gone.

Naturally, one doesn’t have to uncritically embrace how others see us, but it’s still useful to know what they’re thinking, especially when they’re in charge of the Church to which we all belong. In that sense, Spadaro and Figueroa may have performed a service by putting it all on the table.


6. Pope Francis’ Next Act.

By Ross Douthat, The New York Times, July 16, 2017, Pg. SR11

By the standards of the Francis papacy, things were rather quiet in Rome for much of 2017. The great controversy of the previous two years, the debate over communion for the divorced and remarried, had entered a kind of stalemate, with bishops the world over disagreeing and the pope himself keeping a deliberate silence. One long act of the pontificate seemed finished; the question was how much drama there was still to come.

The last month has supplied some. In rapid succession, four important cardinals have been removed from the stage.

These four very different departures have a combined effect: They weaken resistance to Francis in the highest reaches of the hierarchy. And they raise the question facing the remainder of his pontificate: With high-level opposition thinned out and the Benedict/John Paul II vision in eclipse, how far does the pope intend to push?

But the pope himself remains both more cautious than his friends — the men he appointed to succeed Mueller and Scola are moderate, not radical — and also perhaps more unpredictable.

We know that Francis is a liberal pope, but apart from the remarriage debate we don’t know what priority he places on any given liberal-Catholic goal.

Among many liberals there is a palpable ambition, a sense that a sweeping opportunity to rout conservative Catholicism might finally be at hand. But there is also a palpable anxiety, since the church’s long-term future is not obviously progressive — not with a growing African church and a shrinking European one, a priesthood whose younger ranks are often quite conservative, and little evidence that the Francis era has brought any sudden renewal.

How much does Francis himself share either sentiment — the ambition, the anxiety? The next act of this papacy will tell.


7. Cardinals on Opposite Sides of the Hudson Reflect Two Paths of Catholicism.

By Sharon Otterman, The New York Times, July 16, 2017, Pg. A1

Cardinal Tobin is emerging as a champion of progressive, center-left Catholics, who favor a church that places more emphasis on protecting immigrants and the environment than on fighting same-sex marriage. Cardinal Dolan, who was elevated to that rank in 2012, remains a favorite of center-right Catholics, taking a more conservative approach toward doctrine and focusing more on issues like the church’s opposition to abortion.

Neither man is out of step with church tenets, and both believe in a kind of “big tent” Catholicism that reaches out to all, church experts said. As bishops, their beliefs are more alike than different.

As president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops from 2010 to 2013, Cardinal Dolan led the effort to persuade President Barack Obama to exempt religious institutions from having to provide health coverage that included birth control. He deplored same-sex marriage. “Today is a tragic day for marriage and our nation,” he said when the Supreme Court struck down part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act in 2013.

But he also stressed the joys of being Catholic and became a media personality with his own radio show. Church experts called him the go-to guy for Pope Benedict in the American church. In Rome on the eve of the papal conclave in 2013, Vatican insiders whispered that he could be “papabile,” or “pope material.”

Cardinal Dolan, who sees himself as a uniter, offered a prayer at the inauguration of President Trump. He also has a powerful, socially conservative constituency in New York, one whose ample donations help keep his diocese and the Vatican running.

The cardinals also have contrasting approaches to running a diocese. As archbishop of Indianapolis, Cardinal Tobin won praise from his priests for his willingness to delve into the details of parish management. Cardinal Dolan is more of a hands-off manager, relying heavily on his vicar general, Msgr. Gregory Mustaciuolo.

“He’s never been into running the diocese,” said John L. Allen Jr., who wrote a book with Cardinal Dolan, “A People of Hope,” in 2012. “The nuts and bolts of deciding what priest is going to be in what parish has zero interest for him. He’s a big-picture guy.”

To some, Cardinal Tobin represents the future and Cardinal Dolan the past.

But others said the difference between the men is less dramatic.

“It comes down to small stuff,” Mr. Allen said. “Tobin would be somebody who, if there were a theologian under investigation, would instinctively sympathize with the theologian. And I think Dolan’s instinctive sympathies would be with the system.”


8. House Committee advances measure to block assisted suicide in D.C.

By Jenna Portnoy and Peter Jamison, The Washington Post, July 14, 2017

The House Appropriations Committee late Thursday advanced a measure to repeal the District’s assisted suicide law, known as Death with Dignity, opening a new front in the city’s battle for self-determination.

The measure, introduced by Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.), must still be approved by the full House and Senate, as well as President Trump, before it can take effect.

His amendment to squash the assisted suicide law passed 28 to 24 along party lines except for Reps. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.) and Dan Newhouse (R-Wash.), who joined the Democrats to vote against the measure. Newhouse comes from one of six states where assisted suicide is legal.


9. Court sides with NY archdiocese in major religious liberty decision.

By Matt Hadro, Catholic News Agency, July 14, 2017, 5:00 PM

A federal court ruled Friday that the Archdiocese of New York had the right not to hire a diocesan school principal in a First Amendment religious freedom decision.

“The court saw right through this blatantly anti-Catholic lawsuit, agreeing with the Supreme Court that the church, not the state, should pick religious leaders,” Eric Rassbach, deputy general counsel at Becket, which represented the archdiocese in court, stated July 14 in reaction to the decision.

The case before the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals involved St. Anthony’s school in Nanuet, N.Y., 35 miles north of New York City.

The school had decided in 2011 not to renew the contract of its then-principal Joanne Fratello because of her alleged “insubordination” shown to the pastor of St. Anthony’s parish.

Fratello later alleged that the contract decision was a case of sex-based discrimination, and she filed a lawsuit against the school and the archdiocese. She said that she had been hired in a lay capacity, and thus the archdiocese would not be exempt from a discrimination lawsuit under the “ministerial exception.”

The “ministerial exception” forbids the government from intervening in the employment of a minister by a church, as part of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

Regarding Fratello’s claim, the archdiocese argued in court that she had indeed been hired on a ministerial basis and that their decision not to renew her contract was protected under the ministerial exemption.

Becket clarified that Fratello was given a “lay” contract for her job as a principal not because her job was a secular position, but because she was not a religious who had taken a vow of poverty. A diocesan priest would have received a similar contract for the job, Rassbach explained.

On Friday, two judges for the Second Circuit and one district court judge upheld a district court decision that favored the archdiocese.