1. The fierce challenges Callista Gingrich will likely face as Vatican ambassador.

By Sarah Pulliam Bailey, The Washington Post, July 20, 2017, 7:00 AM

On Tuesday during her confirmation hearings, Senate leaders asked Callista Gingrich several questions about issues where the pope and the president tend to diverge. The heated debates over abortion, contraception and gay marriage during the Obama administration have shifted under President Trump to issues like the environment, immigration, refugees, health care and poverty.

Observers say Gingrich is an interesting choice primarily because she’s married to a former speaker of the House and an early supporter and close ally to Trump, so she should have good White House access.

Callista Gingrich’s nomination proceedings take place as a confidant of the pope published an article last week condemning the president’s religious supporters.

“It’s clear there are tensions,” said Miguel Diaz, who was ambassador to the Vatican under Obama’s first term. “Her challenge is going to be to bridge the clear differences between the Trump administration and Pope Francis’s vision.”

“She has the strengths of the political world,” he said. “I couldn’t pick up the phone and talk to the speaker of the House and I certainly wasn’t married to the former speaker of the House.”

Diaz said he met with Vatican officials on a weekly basis and worked with the State Department and other ambassadors around the world. He said what she lacks in experience in working with the Vatican will be made up by the staff around her.

“I quickly realized … it is not just what you know and how qualified you may be for a particular assignment that can make a difference, but also who you know in the world of Washington and Vatican relationships,” he said.

Rep. Francis Rooney (R-Fla.), who served as Vatican ambassador under President George W. Bush during his second term, said Gingrich will find common cause from Vatican leaders on issues like fighting Islamic terrorism and poverty around the globe. Her challenge, he said, will likely be related to environmental issues.

“Any American that goes to Europe in this era of ‘climate change religion’ is going to face the European all-or-nothing approach to climate change,” Rooney said. “We have felt we can be good stewards of the environment … without wrecking our economy. That’s a fundamental difference we have.”


2. Charlie Gard and Our Moral Confusion.

By Kenan Malik, The New York Times, July 20, 2017, Pg. A25

Two court cases in London this week expose the difficulties we have in thinking about what it means to die with dignity. In one, the parents of a seriously ill baby, Charlie Gard, are pleading for judges not to order their son’s life support be turned off, but instead let him travel to the United States for experimental treatment. In the other, a terminally ill man, Noel Conway, suffering from motor neuron disease, wants the court to allow doctors to help him end his life at the moment of his choosing.

It is more than six months since the courts first heard the case. A reasonable decision, one that acknowledges the complexities, might have been for the court to have accepted at the start that Charlie could receive treatment for a set period (say, three or six months). This would have permitted the treatment to be assessed, while all parties could have agreed that if the treatment did not succeed, the life support would be turned off. We would have known by now whether Charlie did possess an alternative future or whether his interest does lie in death.

In Charlie’s case, the judges decided that it is in his interest to die even with a possibility of treatment. Mr. Conway, in contrast, wants to be allowed to die in dignity, but the law will not permit it.

As in the Charlie Gard case, there are reasonable arguments on both sides of the debate. But it is difficult to divine the moral logic of insisting that Charlie must die with dignity, despite there being a possible treatment, and against the desperate pleas of his parents, while refusing to allow a terminally ill, morally competent individual that same right.


3. Two (strong) views on blockbuster essay about U.S. religion, politics.

By Crux, July 20, 2017

recent blockbuster article by two close friends of Pope Francis asserting there’s an “ecumenism of hate” in the United States, aligning fundamentalist Evangelicals with “Catholic integralists,” continues to kick up dust. Critics are deriding its grasp of American realities, while defenders insist it names an ugly truth that needs to be confronted.

Adding fuel to the fire, many people have assumed that because the authors are close to the pontiff, at least in some big-picture sense the article must reflect Francis’s own views.
To discuss the issues raised in the article by Jesuit Father Antonio Spadaro and Argentinian Protestant Marcelo Figueroa, this week “Crux of the Matter,” Crux’s weekly radio show on the Catholic Channel Sirius XM 129, which airs Mondays at 1 p.m. Eastern, invited two regular Cruxcontributors to weigh in:

Austen Ivereigh, a British Catholic intellectual and commentator and co-founder of Catholic Voices, who’s the author of a deeply approving biography of Pope Francis entitled The Great Reformer: Francis and the Making of a Radical Pope.

Thomas Williams, an American theologian and ethicist based in Rome, who also serves as the Rome bureau chief for Breitbart News.


However, I’m surprised there have been so many essays in response to it pointing out its faults in this area, sidestepping the big point the article is making, which to me is absolutely spot-on and irrefutable. It’s that an extremely unhealthy collusion on the right of American politics, between very conservative Catholics and Evangelical ‘ultras,’ frankly has produced not only a Manichean world view and an apocalyptic geopolitical outlook, but it’s done enormous damage to the Gospel and to the Christian witness in the United States.

Ivereigh: I think we have to be very careful about saying this article reflects Pope Francis’s views. Actually, I could never imagine Pope Francis saying what’s said in this article, because that’s just not the way he is.

That said, I know he would share the concerns the article seeks to identify, which is the collusion and the apocalyptic geopolitical outlook I just mentioned and which the article focuses on. Antonio Spadaro and Marcelo Figueroa, both of them, by the way, friends of mine, are very close to Pope Francis and understand his thinking in a very deep way. So, I think it’s right to say the concerns would be shared by Pope Francis, but I don’t think you can pin the argumentation anywhere near the pope.

Williams: I think it’s a bit of a weather balloon, and I also thank God that Francis did not sign this document or anything like it, because it would have done great damage to his pontificate, which would have been terrible.

I think he maintains a certain distance and credible deniability by having two of his friends write it in this journal, so he can watch and gauge the backlash to it, see what people say about it and the criticisms that are leveled, and then decide whether he wants to move in closer or step back.

I do think he shares these concerns, as Austen said. I completely agree with that. But I don’t think he considers himself enough of an expert that he would directly weigh in on the history of religion and politics in the United States in the way these authors have dared to do.

Crux: Tom, apart from breakdowns in details, did you see anything in the article you thought was helpful or accurate?


It’s not in the individual facts, it’s the way they’re sewn together into a generalization that ‘this is the state of American affairs,’ and bringing it together as if this is the way in which American conservative Christians and Catholics think. They far over-emphasize the influence these individual works have had.

By the way, when you get into ‘Manichaeism,’ you have to be very, very careful. This has a long history and a very specific meaning. In the way they speak about it here, they manifest great ignorance with regard to the history of Manichaeism, what the movement actually meant, what it was that Augustine was attacking when he attacked Manichaeism, and where it came from.

To throw that on American Christians, I think, is absolutely absurd. It’s like labeling your enemy a ‘Hitlerite’ or something, when the person has nothing to with Hitler whatsoever.

Ivereigh: Whether or not they’re using ‘Manichaeism’ in a correct way, there certainly is a black-and-white, us-and-them aggressive view of the world, which has been expressed particularly by this administration, with the support of leading Catholics and leading Evangelicals.

I realize I’m a foreigner here standing outside, but if you ask me about Catholicism in Europe and politics, I would point to a lot of very unhealthy narratives, particularly around fascism and nationalism in the early part of the 20thcentury. I would say that’s deeply unhealthy, it’s a violation of the Gospel, and that’s exactly what’s happening at the moment in the United States.

Steve Bannon, gave a talk to the Vatican by videolink back in 2014, in which he said the Judeo-Christian tradition is in crisis and only the ‘Church militant’ can fight against this new barbarity.

He talked about the long history of the struggle of the West against Islam. This is a Manichean view, this is the idea that religions are destined to clash militarily.

Frankly, it’s a narrative that’s very close to that of ISIS, and I completely agree with the two authors in that sense.

We are talking about a white Christian nationalism, very similar to what Putin is spouting, very similar to what Mussolini spouted back in the 1920s, which of course is all about the defense of Christian values, but it’s an extremely selective defense.

As we all know, the U.S. Catholic right for a long time has said that there are ‘non-negotiables’ such as abortion, but hey, climate change? That’s a prudential judgment. Immigration? That’s a prudential judgment. Small arms trade? No, that’s up you, it’s a matter of freedom. Death penalty? Also, somehow prudential. That’s what I mean about the ransacking of the Gospel, the political manipulation of Catholicism for ideological ends, and that’s exactly what this article called attention to.


Steve Bannon is not a theocrat. Obviously, Austen’s never talked to him, because he doesn’t have a theocratic bone in his body. He doesn’t want to see government by Bible. To attribute that to him, which is the one paragraph that names Steve Bannon, just displays an astounding ignorance.

These authors don’t know the people they’re talking about, they don’t know what they believe and stand for, and yet in a pseudo-academic journal they’re willing to make these bald statements that are laughable by academic standards. How can you say something that’s patently not true, and then, by the way, you put in a footnote that doesn’t even relate to what you’re insinuating in your statement? I found it just appalling.

Crux (San Martín): As a non-American, I was personally frustrated with the article. Beyond which facts were accurate and which weren’t, I found an extreme lack of acknowledgement of the many good sides of the Catholic Church in America. Shouldn’t they have recognized that the Church in America is not just all white nationalist, alt-right, crazy people?


I think it was an article that was focused on one thing, and it did it well or badly depending on your point of view.

I think it delivered the crucial punch, but didn’t do it as well as it should have done and left itself very open to criticism.


4. Facebook blames glitch for shutdown of Catholic pages.

By Associated Press, July 19, 2017, 1:36 PM

Facebook is blaming a technical glitch for knocking several Catholic-focused Facebook pages with millions of followers offline for more than a day.

Catholic radio network Relevant Radio says on its website that its “Father Rocky” Facebook page went down on Monday and wasn’t restored until late Tuesday night. It says more than 20 other prominent Catholic pages were also suspended.

The shutdown prompted speculation among some page administrators that they were being intentionally censored.

A Facebook spokesperson apologized for the disruption Wednesday, telling The Associated Press in a statement that all pages have been restored. Facebook says the incident “was triggered accidentally by a spam detection tool.”


5. A Terminal Tug of War: The case of baby Charlie Gard shows why the state shouldn’t get to make end-of-life decisions.

By Grazie Pozo Christie, U.S. News & World Report, July 19, 2017, 10:45 AM

An attentive world is watching, aghast, at the troubling tug-of-war over a terminally ill baby boy in a London hospital. On one side are the distraught and devoted parents who want to shoulder the cost of a treatment that reportedly has little chance of success. On the other side is a medical and state bureaucracy that is insisting, instead, on turning off the baby’s ventilator and allowing him to die.

The case of Charlie Gard is creating anxiety for spectators everywhere as they observe the locus of control over difficult end-of-life decisions pass from the intimate family and doctor unit to an impersonal and distant state.

In watching Charlie’s case we learn that with government-run or socialized medicine, not only can the state refuse to provide life-extending care, it can deny us the freedom to pay for it ourselves, to leave the country seeking an alternative treatment and even to go home to die.

The traditional approach to end-of-life issues in Western medicine, which most American physicians and patients would like to preserve, is that decisions like pursuing another course of chemo, continuing life support or seeking slim-hope treatments should be left to the judgment of the patient or the patient’s proxies. This is especially the case when the patient is not in great pain and will not be gravely harmed by further interventions, and it is most relevant when the patient is a child, as children have a remarkable capacity for healing and recuperation.

It may very well be that the treatment his parents so desperately desire for him cannot or will not help Charlie Gard. Nevertheless, millions of people across the world are rooting for Charlie, hoping he gets the chance to at least try. This baby boy has become an icon in the battle to keep our end-of-life path grounded in the appreciation of the great value of each human life. So may it be that the tug-of-war ends such that he, and everyone else, is kept far away from the soulless, utilitarian grasp of bureaucracy, and is instead allowed to be supported by the compassionate care of doctors and the love and devotion of family.


6. Robert George on US Society:  ‘Our Divisions Are Very Deep’: The Princeton professor, a leading voice for civil discourse, discusses the polarized state of America.

By Matthew E. Bunson, National Catholic Register, July 19, 2017

As you are one of the country’s leading political philosophers, how would you analyze the current state of American political life?

The best way to approach such a question is to assess our nation’s fidelity to its constitutional principles and to the basic civilizational values without which a constitution of liberty cannot be sustained. Judged by that standard, the state of our political life is very poor.

Our institutions and our leaders rarely do more than pay lip service to the principles of limited government, the separation of powers, federalism, respect for the autonomy and integrity of civil society and the rule of law. As a result, the very idea of republican government — that is to say, government not only of the people (which all government is) and for the people (which all good government is, even the rule of a benevolent monarch), but by the people — has been gravely undermined.

We are to a very large extent ruled by an elite who have by various mechanisms established a form of secularist ideology — secular progressivism — as the state religion. Using — in truth, abusing — the judicial system, this elite has deprived the people of the United States of their rightful constitutional authority to, for example, protect human life in all stages and conditions and to embody in their laws the concept of marriage as the conjugal union of husband and wife. Moreover, it has illegitimately enhanced the power of government, especially the central government, at the expense of the just authority of the family and other institutions of civil society.

You have spoken and written on the importance of civility in public and political discourse. What has caused the current crisis in civility? Are there historical parallels?

Even when political struggles are about means rather than ends, things can get pretty rough and tumble in a democratic polity. But the dangers of partisanship, mutual distrust and contempt and polarization are even graver when political struggles are about ends, and not merely about the best means to agreed-upon goals. And we live at a time of deep division about ends — about good and bad, right and wrong, justice and injustice. That’s why people rightly, alas, speak of a “culture war.”

What do you see as the solution?

Something that is very hard to achieve — and may be impossible. Despite our profound differences, Americans on both or all sides of the great cultural struggles of our day must recognize their opponents (or most, or at least many, of their opponents) as reasonable people of goodwill who, doing their best, have arrived at different conclusions about fundamental moral questions — including basic questions of justice and human rights. If that is to happen, political and intellectual leaders, as well as people in the media, are going to have to model treating their adversaries with respect — and not demonizing them.

What advice do you give to Catholics trying to be a public witness in this current political and media environment?

My advice is the advice Pope St. John Paul the Great always gave. It is the advice that inspired me when I heard him say Mass in Boston when I was a law student at Harvard in the ’80s. He got it from his Boss — it’s straight out of the Gospel. Here it is: “Be not afraid.” Really, that’s it.

Have courage. Be bold. Do not let yourself be intimidated. Do not yield to the bullies. Stand up. Speak out. Fear God, not men. Be willing to bear the cost of discipleship. Be prepared to take up your cross and follow Jesus — even to Calvary.

Speak the truth in love, leaving no one in doubt about where you stand. Bear faithful witness. Be gentle as doves, but wise — even cunning — as serpents. Do not compromise your principles — out of fear or even in the hope of advancing worthy goals. Do not fall into the error of believing that a good end justifies a bad means. But do work tirelessly for the best causes — especially life and marriage, but also, and relatedly, to lift up the poor, the downtrodden and the persecuted, both here in the United States and abroad.

Praise God when we seem to be making progress; trust him when we seem not to be. Remember that it is ultimately God’s job, not ours, to bring the victories. They will come on his timetable and on his terms.

Our job is to be faithful — to stand up, speak out, and bear witness. And by the way, no Christian is exempt from that duty. So no excuses.