1. Pompeo to host State Department’s highest-level global meeting on religious liberty. 

By Michelle Boorstein, The Washington Post, July 19, 2018, 2:14 PM

With the Trump administration next week hosting what is believed to be the largest, highest-level gathering to date on the issue of international religious freedom, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Thursday framed President Trump’s recent praise of Russian President Vladimir Putin — whose country is considered among the world’s worst violators of religious liberty — as part of a strategy.

The July 24-26 event hosted by Pompeo continues an effort begun by his predecessor, Rex Tillerson. It is a major gathering of 80 minister-level officials from around the world focused on international religious freedom — encompassing broad issues such as the conditions faced by the Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar and by Christians in areas of the Middle East and Africa controlled by Islamist extremists, while eschewing hot-button cultural battles such as the debate over some bakers’ refusal to make wedding cakes for gay couples on grounds of religious freedom.

Advocates are ecstatic about next week’s meeting because it shows a potential area of human rights cooperation between the United States and Europe in particular at a time when relations seem to be fraying. There is also movement in countries such as Norway, Denmark, Germany, Italy and Britain to have offices aimed at promoting international religious freedom.


2. Pompeo Shifts Russia Focus To Freedom Of Religion. 

By Elizabeth Dias, The New York Times, July 20, 2018, Pg. A17

As the Trump administration continues to deal with the fallout of the president’s conflicting statements this week about Russian electoral interference, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Thursday focused attention on another issue involving Russia, saying that the United States hoped to advance religious freedom in that country. But he did not raise specific concerns about religious repression in Russia or suggest remedies that the United States might be seeking.

Earlier this year, the State Department declined to name Russia as a country of particular concern on religious freedom, against the strong recommendation from the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom that Russia receive the highest possible designation of concern for its aggression in Crimea and the torture and imprisonment of Crimean Tatar Muslims, and for its banning of Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Vice President Mike Pence will speak at the conference, as will the United States’ ambassador for international religious freedom, Sam Brownback. Some 80 representatives from foreign countries are slated to attend, including about 40 foreign ministers.


3. Alleging Years of Abuse by a Family Friend and Superstar of the Church. 

By Sharon Otterman, The New York Times, July 20, 2018, Pg. A19

James was 11 years old when Father Theodore E. McCarrick came into his bedroom in Northern New Jersey, looking for the bathroom.

It was the beginning of a sexually abusive relationship that would last nearly 20 years, James said in the interview, the first time he has spoken publicly about the trauma. He asked that his last name be withheld to protect a sibling.

Interviews and documents obtained by The New York Times after Cardinal McCarrick’s removal showed that some in the church hierarchy had known for decades about allegations that he was sexually harassing and touching adult seminarians.

Through his life, James said, he only told a few people that the priest had abused him. His younger brother. His uncle, Cardinal McCarrick’s former friend, now deceased, who advised him to take the secret to his grave. As James became sober, he also told his Alcoholics Anonymous sponsor and a therapist, he said.

But now James wants to take action against Cardinal McCarrick, to give courage to others who might have been abused, and to find some justice for himself, he said.


4. ‘I’m Doing It for the Babies’: Inside the Ground Game to Reverse Roe v. Wade.

By Elizabeth Dias, The New York Times, July 20, 2018

Armed with sunscreen, doorknob fliers and a mission 50 years in the making, the team of activists sporting blue “I Vote Pro-Life” T-shirts fanned out into a web of cul-de-sacs in a subdivision just west of Indianapolis, undeterred by towering rain clouds and 90-degree heat.

It was exactly a week after President Trump had named Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh to be his nominee for the Supreme Court, and the group was joking that they had a new sport: Extreme Canvassing.

Leaders of the anti-abortion movement believe they are closer than they have been in 50 years to achieving their goals, and local efforts like these are at the heart of their plan to get there. They see this political moment — a White House that advances anti-abortion priorities, a Supreme Court poised to tilt in a conservative direction, and a possible third Supreme Court seat to fill while Mr. Trump is still in office — as a rare opportunity, and one they have worked for years to create.


5. LatAm debunks persistent myth about anti-Christian persecution, By John L. Allen Jr., Editor, Crux, July 20, 2018, Opinion

Recent developments in the Central American nations of Nicaragua and Venezuela both offer not only sobering indications about the direction of those societies, but also a thorough debunking of one of the most persistent myths about anti-Christian persecution in the early 21st century.

Since the subject first arose as a matter of political and media chatter in the 1990s, conversation about anti-Christian persecution has gone through several phases of denial.

The first was that there was such a thing at all, fueled by suspicion in some cultural and media circles that “anti-Christian persecution” had been ginned up by conservative Western Christians looking to win sympathy for socially unpopular positions on matters such as homosexuality and women.

After the rise of ISIS in Iraq and Syria that position became unsustainable, and most people were willing to recognize that Christians are being persecuted today at the hands of Islamic radicalism in various parts of the Middle East.

More recently, news of a possible breakthrough in Vatican-China relations has refocused attention on the fact that there is a persecuted, underground church in China, and that it’s not just radical Muslims who sometimes see Christianity as a threat.

The remaining type of denial, and one that’s proven surprisingly enduring, is that Christians are at risk of persecution only where they’re a minority. In largely Christian societies, or so the myth goes, individual Christians ought to be safe – and if they’re not, whatever they’re suffering isn’t really “religious” persecution.

Even a moment’s reflection, however, is enough to demonstrate that it’s not just places where Christians are a minority that form the front lines of this war, and it never has been.

The Center for the Study of Global Christianity estimates that of the seventy million Christians who have been martyred since the time of Christ, forty-five million died in the twentieth century alone. By far the largest concentration was in the Soviet Union, with as many as twenty-five million killed inside Russia and an additional eight million in Ukraine. Both Russia and Ukraine are profoundly Christian societies and have been for centuries, even during the period in which they were governed by officially atheistic regimes.

Many of the most celebrated martyrs of the late twentieth century came in Latin America, among Christians who resisted the police states of the region. A reminder of that history will come in October, when Pope Francis officially canonizes Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador, who was shot to death while saying Mass in 1980 for his advocacy of the poor and victims of human rights abuses.

Other examples of these “majority martyrs” include American Sister Dorothy Stang, the great “martyr of the Amazon” in overwhelmingly Catholic Brazil, and Maria Elizabeth Macías Castro, a leader in the Scalabrinian lay movement and a popular blogger, beheaded in Mexico in 2011 for exposing the activities of a drug cartel.

Today, Latin America is once more in the forefront of exposing the “only a minority” myth, due to literal violence in Nicaragua and mounting political and legal harassment in Venezuela.

Yesterday, Crux’s Inés San Martín offered a chilling tick-tock of recent attacks on Church personnel or sites in Nicaragua, where forces loyal to Sandinista President Daniel Ortega and his wife, Vice President Rosario Murillo, are increasingly inclined to see Catholic clergy and activits as the enemy.


6. Cardinal calls all to pray Supreme Court will move to protect life in law. 

By Catholic News Service, July 20, 2018

New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, called July 19 for a national prayer campaign effort that “the change in the U.S. Supreme Court will move our nation closer to the day when every human being is protected in law and welcomed in life.”

“As soon as Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement, pro-abortion groups began lobbying the U.S. Senate to reject any nominee who does not promise to endorse Roe v. Wade,” the cardinal said in a statement.

“While the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops does not support or oppose the confirmation of any presidential nominee,” he said, “we can and should raise grave concerns about a confirmation process which is being grossly distorted by efforts to subject judicial nominees to a litmus test of support for Roe v. Wade. And we must pray.”

He invited all people of goodwill to pray each Friday from Aug. 3 to Sept. 28 in a “Novena for the Legal Protection of Human Life.”


7. Nicaragua’s president calls Catholic Church ‘allies of coup mongers’. 

By Luis Manuel Galeano, Associated Press, July 20, 2018

President Daniel Ortega used Thursday’s 39th anniversary of the 1979 revolution against dictator Anastasio Somoza to celebrate strengthening his grip on power after three months of anti-government protests and to attack Nicaragua’s Catholic Church as allies of “coup mongers.”

In recent days, the government and its supporters routed some of the remaining focal points of the resistance.

The Nicaraguan Pro-Human Rights Association tallied 351 killings related to unrest between April 19 and July 10, while the government puts the death toll at more than 200. The vast majority of the deaths were civilians, the group said. On Thursday, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights said it had counted 277 deaths.

While lauding his own government for patience and restraint, Ortega singled out the Catholic hierarchy for blistering criticism. He originally asked church leaders to mediate the crisis, but on Thursday he said their actions had disqualified them as mediators. He said the bishops had given him an ultimatum to call early elections and he alleged that churches have been used to stockpile weapons and stage attacks.

“I thought they were mediators, but no, they are committed to the coup mongers. They were part of the coup mongers’ plan,” Ortega said.

Managua auxiliary Bishop Silvio Baez said via Twitter that slander does not hurt the Church. “It suffers for those who have been murdered, for the families that cry, for the unjustifiably detained and for those who flee repression.”


8. New sexual abuse allegations leveled against Cardinal McCarrick. 

By Catholic News Agency, July 20, 2018

A Virginia man filed a police report Monday, alleging that from the age of 11 he was sexually abused and assaulted serially by now-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, who was a priest of the Archdiocese of New York when the abuse was alleged to have begun.

The New York Times reported July 19 the man’s allegation, that McCarrick began sexually abusing him in 1969, when the priest was 39 and the man, “James,” whose full name has not been reported, was 11 years old. McCarrick was reportedly a friend to the alleged victim’s family.

The man says that he continued to be sexually abused by McCarrick for almost two decades, the Times reported.

The Vatican has not announced if McCarrick will face canonical charges related to the initial allegation of sexual abuse. Sources tell CNA that the matter is being addressed at the Vatican under the direct supervision of Pope Francis.


9. Pope removes Honduran bishop accused of sexual misdeeds.

By Nicole Winfield, Associated Press, July 20, 2018, 7:00 AM

Pope Francis on Friday accepted the resignation of a Honduran bishop accused of sexual misconduct with seminarians, the latest in a series of high-ranking clergy implicated in sexual improprieties with adults under their authority.

Francis had ordered an investigation into the allegations against Tegulcigalpa Auxiliary Bishop Juan José Pineda Fasquelle last year. On Friday, the Vatican said Francis had accepted Pineda’s resignation.

No explanation was given. At 57, Pineda is well below the normal retirement age of 75 for bishops.

Pineda was the top deputy to Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, one of Francis’ main cardinal advisers, and his downfall is a blow to the Honduran archbishop.


10. Chile bishop resists giving abuse report to prosecutors. 

By Associated Press, July 19, 2018, 4:54 PM

The head of the Chilean Roman Catholic Church’s abuse prevention committee says he will not deliver a report on sex abuse committed by priests against minors to Chile’s attorney general.

The 2,300-page report was ordered by Pope Francis after he visited the South American country.

Bishop Juan Ignacio Gonzalez said Thursday that the information in the report could harm those who testified in secret if it became known. He said that “the pope is the only recipient of this report.”