1. Ailing Pope Francis Hurries to Bolster His Progressive Legacy, The pontiff is moving to frame debates that are likely to outlast his reign, By Francis X. Rocca, The Wall Street Journal, July 20, 2023, 7:00 AM Pope Francis is moving to shore up his progressive legacy as his health problems increase, making key appointments that could shape the Catholic Church well past the end of his pontificate. Following hospitalizations in March and June, the pope named a new Vatican doctrinal chief, members of a Vatican synod that could consider major changes to church governance and teaching, and additional members of the body that will elect his successor, all in a little more than a week.  The 86-year-old, who has had two operations for intestinal surgery in the past two years and now often uses a wheelchair, is planning trips to Portugal and Mongolia next month.   Many of his appointments appear designed to set the church on a more progressive course beyond the end of his pontificate. With his appointment this month of Archbishop Victor Manuel Fernández, a fellow Argentine and a longtime theological adviser, as the Vatican’s doctrinal chief, the pope heralded a new mandate for the office once known as the Inquisition. https://www.wsj.com/articles/ailing-pope-francis-hurries-to-bolster-his-progressive-legacy-f91bde43__________________________________________________________ 2. US bishops back bill to help immigrant children, and also religious workers, By John Lavenburg, Crux, July 20, 2023 A bill to help immigrant children achieve permanent legal status has received the support of the U.S. bishops conference for how it would quicken the visa process for vulnerable children, but also because it could free up more visas for foreign-born religious workers. The “Protect Vulnerable Immigrant Youth Act” was introduced in the House and Senate last month. In essence, it would exempt tens of thousands of children from annual employment-based visa caps, which supporters claim would ease case backlogs and free up visas for people such as religious workers, while allowing the children to continue life in the United States as lawful permanent residents. “With this small change, you could uphold the right to religious exercise, a foundational American principle, and empower vulnerable young people to flourish in their new country, contribute to our nation, and reach their full God-given potential,” Bishop Mark Seitz of El Paso, the USCCB migration chair, wrote in a July 12 letter to Congress.  https://cruxnow.com/church-in-the-usa/2023/07/us-bishops-back-bill-to-help-immigrant-children-and-also-religious-workers__________________________________________________________ 3. Missouri Supreme Court weighs fate of amendment to restore abortion rights, By Summer Ballentine, Associated Press, July 19, 2023, 1:00 PM Whether Missouri voters get a chance weigh in on legalizing abortion is now up to state Supreme Court judges, who on Tuesday heard arguments in a case about Republican infighting that has stalled the amendment’s progress. Judges did not indicate when they might rule on the case, which centers around a proposed amendment to enshrine in the constitution the individual right to make decisions about abortion, childbirth and birth control. Abortion-rights supporters proposed it after the state banned almost all abortions last summer. The amendment hit a snag in April, when Republican Attorney General Andrew Bailey refused to sign off on Republican Auditor Scott Fitzpatrick’s cost estimate. Without Bailey’s approval, abortion-rights supporters have not been able to start work getting the signatures needed to put the measure before voters in 2024.  https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/2023/07/18/missouri-abortion-law-supreme-court/9920ccaa-25b9-11ee-9201-826e5bb78fa1_story.html__________________________________________________________ 4. Maine governor expands access to abortion later in pregnancy, By David Sharp, Associated Press, July 19, 2023, 4:39 PMMaine will soon expand abortion access, joining a half dozen states that leave it to doctors and patients to make the decision without restrictions on timing. Democratic Gov. Janet Mills signed a bill into law Wednesday that allows abortions at any time if deemed medically necessary by a doctor, making the law one of the nation’s least restrictive. The previous law banned abortions after a fetus becomes viable outside the womb, at roughly 24 weeks, but allowed an exception if the patient’s life is at risk. “We must recognize the complexity of pregnancy,” Mills said. “And like every other health care procedure, we’ve got to take government out of the decision-making process and put the doctor and the patient in charge.”  https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2023/07/19/maine-abortion-law-expansion-governor-mills/59f05d36-2648-11ee-9201-826e5bb78fa1_story.html__________________________________________________________ 5. Blue-state doctors launch abortion pill pipeline into states with bans, At least 3,500 doses have been shipped to antiabortion states since mid-June, a process enabled by new shield laws, By Caroline Kitchener, The Washington Post, July 19, 2023, 8:19 PM A new procedure adopted in mid-June by one of the largest abortion pill suppliers, Europe-based Aid Access, now allows U.S. medical professionals in certain Democrat-led states that have passed abortion “shield” laws to prescribe and mail pills directly to patients in antiabortion states. Previously, Aid Access allowed only Europe-based doctors to prescribe abortion pills to women in states where abortion is restricted and then shipped those pills internationally, leaving patients to wait weeks. The telemedicine shield laws, enacted over the past year in New York, Massachusetts, Washington, Vermont and Colorado, explicitly protect abortion providers who mail pills to restricted states from inside their borders. The result is a new pipeline of legally prescribed abortion pills flowing into states with abortion bans. In less than a month, seven U.S.-based providers affiliated with Aid Access — including the Hudson Valley doctor, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because she was concerned for her safety — have mailed 3,500 doses of abortion pills to people in antiabortion states, according to Aid Access, putting just this small group alone on track to help facilitate at least 42,000 abortions in restricted states over the next year. If more doctors and nurses sign up, as current providers hope they will, the numbers could climb far higher.  https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2023/07/19/doctors-northeast-launch-abortion-pill-pipeline-into-states-with-bans/__________________________________________________________ 6. House chairman: State Department is giving religious freedom violators ‘a pass’, By Peter Pinedo, Catholic News Agency, July 19, 2023, 12:50 PMReligious liberty advocates in a hearing on Tuesday shared details with members of Congress on the dire state of religious freedom in countries around the world. Advocates highlighted several nations, including India, Nigeria, and Nicaragua, where, according to human rights advocates, violations have been largely ignored by the U.S. and the international community, according to witnesses. The House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations hosted the hearing, which was chaired by Rep. Chris Smith, R-New Jersey. “Billions of people around the world — half of the world’s population — are not able to practice their faith freely,” Smith said in his opening remarks. Smith said that “assaults on religious freedom are a major threat to U.S. national security” and “the worst violators of religious freedom globally are often the biggest threats to our nation,” which he said “is no coincidence.” “Unfortunately,” Smith went on, “I am concerned that the U.S. State Department is not using all the tools provided to hold guilty parties accountable.” According to Rabbi Abraham Cooper, chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), and several other advocates who testified, despite serious religious freedom violations India and Nigeria remain off the State Department’s blacklist known as the “Countries of Particular Concern” (CPC) list. https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/254841/house-chairman-state-dept-is-giving-religious-freedom-violators-a-pass__________________________________________________________ 7. University of Notre Dame: 2023 Notre Dame Prize for Religious Liberty.  Acceptance Speech by Professor the Rt.Hon.(David) Lord Alton of Liverpool. Merchant Taylors’ Hall, London, By David Alton, July 13, 2023, SpeechTo be awarded the 2023 Notre Dame Prize for Religious Liberty is a tremendous and singular honour. It means a great deal to me – not least because of the respect I have for the previous recipients: Mary Ann Glendon and Nury Turkel.  Through serving on the Board of Notre Dame Law School’s Religious Liberty Initiative, I have come to know and deeply admire Dean Marcus Cole, Professor Stephanie Barclay  and the team in Notre Dame’s outstanding and hugely respected School of Law. Awards are, of course, a great and generous encouragement to the recipient – but also a spur to do more – but they are also about far more than the individual concerned. This Award is also for the remarkable people and organisations who have collaborated with me – some of them here tonight – often as volunteers and selflessly giving their time, energy, and expertise in the cause of religious liberty. Secondly, the award is also about the millions who suffer so grievously because of their religious faith or beliefs. It is about the outrageous daily breach of Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that guarantees the right to believe, not to believe or to change belief – frequently honoured in its breach with irony of irony, countries like China appointed to the UN Human Rights Council to oversee it. Last year at least 360 million Christians experienced ‘high levels of persecution and discrimination.‘ Worldwide, 13 Christiansare killed every day because of their faith. Muslims, Jews, Baha’i, Yazidis, Ahmadis, Hazara, Humanists and many others suffer in societies where no respect is shown for what Jonathan Sacks described as ‘the dignity of difference.’ Religious liberty is a cause that came looking for me rather than the other way round. Of course, it would have been impossible as a child to have attended a school named for Edmund Campion – or as a Parliamentarian  to walk every day through Westminster Hall where he and Thomas More stood trial for their faith, before being executed – without being aware of the price which has been paid for our contemporary religious freedom. It was a cause that came looking for me in 1979, when as a new MP, I was approached by Danny Smith who was working to free seven Siberian Pentecostal Christians who in 1978 had taken refuge in the American Embassy in Moscow. It took five years – and interventions from Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, and Pope John Paul II – before, in June 1983, they were allowed to leave the Soviet Union. Repeatedly, individual cases like these made me see how we take own religious liberties for granted. But they were also canaries in the mine, warning of acute danger to whole communities. When you ignore discrimination don’t be surprised when it morphs into persecution that when you ignore it what follows are atrocity crimes, crimes against humanity and even genocide will be waiting in the wings. I also saw the link between persecution and other violations of human rights and global challenges. By way of example consider how many of the 114 million displaced people in the world have become refugees because of religious persecution. To raise awareness of this foundational concern I realised, very early on, that to be effective we have to form alliances.  So how do we change things? Well, we are changing things – but it requires Herculean and painstaking efforts – like our  parliamentary reports about Hazara, Darfur, North Korea, Uyghurs, Rohingya, Tibet and Yazidis. That serious work  has led to debates and questions in Parliament, to speeches, to letters and meetings with Ministers. And sometimes to action through our aid programmes – but nowhere near enough. It is also how you can shoot down the lazy excuse that officials and Ministers ‘did not know.’  But this is the time-honoured way in a democracy – it is what Wilberforce, and the Quaker ladies did as people of faith as they challenged the laws on slavery. They knew you had to change hearts, change minds, change attitudes, change political priorities, to change laws. And the Academy – especially illustrious law schools like Notre Dame – have a significant role to play in this. Which brings me to my conclusions. 75 years ago this year – after the genocide on the European continent, the Holocaust of the Jewish people – the world promulgated both the Genocide Convention and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and including Article 18 on freedom of religion or belief. By guaranteeing religious freedom we can increase international justice, stability, and peace. There is also a correlation between the most prosperous happiest societies and those that promote religious freedoms. Religious freedom is not just a nice to have. This too often neglected, orphaned right, needs parents to nurture, uphold and encourage its growth. The goal must be to achieve religious freedom for everyone, everywhere, whoever they may be. Why? Because we each have an inalienable right, flowing from our nature as human beings, to believe in religious truths or, uncoerced, not to do so. We have the right to freely come together in community with others and to worship in the tradition which we have embraced and with others to create holy spaces and places; to open schools and colleges in which to foster and educate our children. It is also a duty of those who hold that each person is made in the image and likeness of our Creator to defend the civil, democratic and political rights and upholding of law in respectful societies and especially to defend the voiceless and most vulnerable of God’s children.    The creation of the hugely important Notre Dame Law School Religious Liberty Initiative has given that work renewed definition and impetus. It is a good deed in a sometimes nasty, dangerous, and intolerant world. It is wonderful that Dean Cole and Professor Barclay have brought this year’s Summit to London. Thank you. In thanking them and accepting this prestigious Award, I hope the Notre Dame message that freedom of religion or belief is a fundamental liberty – and which must be upheld at every opportunity and in every forum- will be heard loud and clear. CS Lewis said is impossible to change the beginning of a story, but we can always change the ending – for millions, whose religious freedom is denied let’s resolve to give the story a better ending. https://www.davidalton.net/2023/07/14/university-of-notre-dame-2023-notre-dame-prize-for-religious-liberty-acceptance-speech-by-david-alton-merchant-taylors-hall-london-july-13th-2023/__________________________________________________________

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