1. New federally funded clinics are promoting abstinence, Obria centers emphasize ‘benefits of commitment and marriage’.

By Ariana Eunjung Cha, The Washington Post, July 23, 2019, Pg. A10

Chief executive Kathleen Eaton Bravo is pitching Obria as a “pro-life” alternative to Planned Parenthood — by far the largest recipient of family planning funds under the $287 million program, which offers services to about 4 million low-income women and girls. Planned Parenthood is at risk of losing that funding because of a recent rule change that requires abortions be delivered in separate places than family-planning services and bars directive counseling that mentions abortion.

Bravo, in an email response to questions, said many women “want the opportunity to visit a professional, comprehensive health care facility — not an abortion clinic — for their health care needs.”

“Obria gives women that choice,” she said.

Political analysts have called the Obria grant a game-changer for the antiabortion movement that may lead to similar clinics being eligible for more types of federal grants, reimbursement from Medicaid and participation in private insurance plans.

The first set of 21 Title X Obria-branded centers, which will include brick-and-mortar operations as well as telemedicine and mobile clinics, are scattered across Los Angeles, Orange, San Diego and Santa Clara counties and serve about 36,000 girls and women over the three years of the grant. They offer reproductive health screenings for sexually transmitted diseases/infections, HIV and cancer, as well as pregnancy testing, ultrasounds and prenatal education and care.

Obria is made up of 50 clinics, only about half of which are participating in Title X, and its goal is to have more than 200 sites by 2022. It recently rebranded as “the fresh new face of comprehensive care.”


2. Vatican appoints new bishop to scandal-hit West Virginia diocese.

By Chico Harlan, Washington Post Online, July 23, 2019, 6:37 AM

The Vatican on Tuesday made an effort to recover from one of its most damaging scandals, naming bishop Mark E. Brennan to lead a West Virginia diocese whose previous bishop stepped down amid allegations of sexual harassment and runaway financial abuse.

Brennan’s appointment comes 10 months after the retirement of bishop Michael J. Bransfield, who had led the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston for 13 years — doling out money to himself and other powerful clerics, according to a church investigation, in one of the nation’s poorest states.

Brennan, previously the auxiliary or assistant bishop in Baltimore, inherits a small and wounded statewide diocese of Catholics who have expressed betrayal about how the church handled Bransfield’s tenure. Warnings about the bishop’s behavior brought to the attention of senior Catholics in the United States and the Vatican, went back as far as 2012.


3. Trump’s Hesitant Embrace of Human Rights, Highlighting China’s religious persecution is good politics, at home and abroad.

By Walter Russell Mead, The Wall Street Journal, July 23, 2019, Pg. A13, Opinion

In recent weeks, the Trump administration has condemned Chinese repression of Muslims in Xinjiang, hosted a conference of 106 countries to discuss religious freedom around the world, and announced the formation of the International Religious Freedom Alliance. Mr. Pompeo called China’s mass repression of the largely Muslim Uighur people “the stain of the century.” On Wednesday Mr. Trump met at the White House with 27 people from around the world who have faced persecution for their religious beliefs.

But the political logic behind the administration’s Wilsonian pivot is strong. Team Trump needs to unify its populist and conservative supporters in the U.S. even as it builds a coalition against Chinese overreach in Asia and beyond. Incorporating a vision of human rights focused on religious liberty helps on both fronts.

Integrating American values with the demands of realpolitik is always hard. We can neither ignore China’s treatment of the Uighurs nor make it the only issue in the U.S.-China relationship. And Americans are much more willing to lecture the world about human rights than to undertake expensive and risky interventions to uphold them in the world’s crisis zones.


4. Iraq could be Francis’s shot at ‘most important papal trip of all time’.

By John L. Allen Jr., Editor, Crux, July 23, 2019

Within just the last few days, two senior Catholic prelates from Iraq have referred to plans for Pope Francis to visit the country next year as, essentially, a done deal.

Of course, this is the Middle East we’re talking about, where the best-laid plans go to die. St. John Paul II had every intention of visiting the Iraqi city of Ur as part of his pilgrimage to the origins of the faith for the Great Jubilee of 2000, but security concerns derailed those hopes. A widening conflict between the U.S. and Iran is merely one scenario that might have a similar impact on Francis’s agenda this time around.

If the pontiff does end up going, however, it may be Francis’s best shot at the title of “most important papal trip of all time.”


5. Church in Africa celebrates 50 years of growth, mounting influence.

By Elise Harris, Crux, July 23, 2019

Africa’s continent-wide bishops’ conference is celebrating its 50th anniversary this week, with senior African Catholic leaders expressing public pride in five decades of rapid growth and missionary expansion.

Sunday opened the 18th plenary assembly for the “Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar” (SECAM), which this year coincides with the body’s Golden Jubilee.

In a July 22 message signed by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin marking the occasion, Pope Francis voiced gratitude “for the many graces received by SECAM and for the fraternal communion that has characterized its work over these fifty years.”

He prayed that SECAM’s members “may be strengthened in missionary discipleship, for the great work of evangelization consists in striving to make the Gospel permeate every aspect of our lives so that we, in turn, can bring it to others.”


6. Pope urges concrete measures to protect Syrian civilians.

The Associated Press, July 22, 2019, 12:49 PM

Pope Francis has sent Syrian President Bashar Assad a letter expressing his “profound concern” for the humanitarian situation in Syria and in particular the plight of civilians in Idlib province.

The Vatican said Cardinal Peter Turkson, one of Francis’ top advisers, hand-delivered the letter to Assad during a meeting Monday in Damascus attended by the Vatican’s ambassador to Syria.

It was an unusual, hands-on gesture meant to show Francis’ concern about the situation.


7. Pope Francis names Mark Brennan to follow Bransfield at West Virginia diocese.

By Courtney Grogan, Catholic News Agency, July 23, 2019, 4:01 AM

Pope Francis Tuesday named Bishop Mark Brennan the Bishop of Wheeling-Charleston, West Virginia following financial corruption and alleged sexual assault by the former bishop of the diocese Michael J. Bransfield.

Brennan, 72, is an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Baltimore, where he has served since his appointment in 2016.

“I eagerly look forward to being a part of this local church in West Virginia, to working with the good people, enjoying their interests and most especially, gaining their trust as their brother and servant,” Brennan told Balitmore’s The Catholic Review July 23.


8. Federal judge hears challenge to Arkansas abortion laws.

By Andrew Demillo, The Associated Press, July 22, 2019, 10:54 PM

An official with Arkansas’ only surgical abortion clinic said Monday that the facility could close within a month if a federal judge doesn’t block a new law restricting who can perform abortions in the state.

The clinic director of Little Rock Family Planning Services said during a hearing that the facility has only one physician who complies with the requirement that doctors performing abortions be board-certified or board-eligible in obstetrics and gynecology. That physician, Frederick Hopkins, lives in California and only works at the Little Rock clinic for three to four days every other month.


9. Audit firm, other financial controls announced for West Virginia diocese.

By Christopher Gunty, Catholic News Service, July 22, 2019, 11:38 AM

The Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, West Virginia, has selected a new external auditor as part of the progress that has been made since Pope Francis accepted the resignation of Bishop Michael J. Bransfield as head of the diocese in September 2018.

Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori, apostolic administrator since that time, announced the selection of CLA (CliftonLarsonAllen) LLP — a national financial auditing firm that serves more than 30 dioceses across the country — in a decision made in coordination with the diocesan finance council.

The archbishop said the audit would be published on the diocese’s website when it is completed and received.


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