1. Priests accused of sex abuse turned to under-the-radar group.

By Martha Mendoza, Juliet Linderman and Garance Burke, The Associated Press, July 29, 2019, 4:44 AM

They had been brought to town by a small, nonprofit group called Opus Bono Sacerdotii. For nearly two decades, the group has operated out of a series of unmarked buildings in rural Michigan, providing money, shelter, transport, legal help and other support to hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Catholic priests accused of sexual abuse across the country.

The Associated Press unraveled the continuing story of Opus Bono in dozens of interviews with experts, lawyers, clergy members and former employees, along with hundreds of pages of documents obtained through Freedom of Information requests.

In recent months, two of the group’s founders were forced out after Michigan’s attorney general found that Opus Bono had misused donated funds and misled contributors. A third co-founder, a priest, was abruptly removed from ministry earlier this month after the AP began asking about an allegation that he had sexually abused a child decades ago.


2. Book on Kavanaugh argues nomination process is dysfunctional.

By Charles C. Camosy, Crux, July 29, 2019

Camosy: Your book is making quite a splash. There are other reviews and interviews people can access to learn about the book more generally, but let’s focus on Kavanaugh’s Catholicism. Based on your research, how much did his Catholic faith genuinely matter to him?

Hemingway and Severino: We researched the topic and worked to include the role religion played for the Kavanaugh family. One of our favorite Amazon reviews said that the only way that our personal views were revealed in the text of our book was that we were respectful toward the religious aspects of the story. We appreciated that.

Kavanaugh grew up attending Mass and went to Catholic schools throughout his adolescence. He continues to practice his faith, including as a regular lector at his parish, and sends his children to Catholic school. He spoke publicly during the confirmation process about his faith and how it motivates his charity work and his desire to empathize with the accused and impoverished. As the confirmation process became difficult, he found strength in that faith.

We learned that Ashley Kavanaugh and her friends were sustained by their faith during the most trying phases of the confirmation process, sharing Scripture verses with friends and drawing comfort from the music of Christian artists Lauren Daigle and Julianna Zobrist. For his part, Judge Kavanaugh found himself returning to a song sung frequently in chapel at Georgetown Prep: “Be Not Afraid.” As we write in the book, he and his friends used to make fun of the way their beloved music teacher Gary Daum sang the hymn. But the frequent repetition of the song had the intended effect and Kavanaugh remembered the words and drew strength from them when he needed it most.

It is a little bit hard to believe that St. Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” was the second reading at the Mass minutes before Kavanaugh was told he would be the nominee. What a soberingly prophetic moment that turned out to be.

In Justice on Trial, we tell the story about how Kavanaugh and his team were working hard to secure the nomination to the Supreme Court. Kavanaugh had been considered the front-runner but as the announcement neared, his prospects did not seem good. The media were reporting that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell strongly discouraged President Trump from picking him on account of the mountains of paperwork the Senate would have to go through to confirm him. Other reports said his close ties to the Bushes meant that Trump was souring on him. Rumors of other nominees being more likely filled the media. Kavanaugh and his team were pretty sure it would not happen and began commiserating with each other.

Kavanaugh wondered whether he should keep his scheduled time as lector that week, given all the publicity surrounding the nomination process, ultimately deciding it would be a good idea. As he prepared for the epistle he would read, he sent it to his clerks, noting how fitting the passage was. He drew from it encouragement for the ordeal he was going through including the very real possibility he would not be picked. What we all know, of course, is that those verses would be even more appropriate for what he was about to go through in the ensuing months. We also found it interesting to learn that Clarence Thomas had meditated on the same passage during his brutal confirmation process. In his memoir My Grandfather’s Son, Justice Thomas describes reading the same verses from 2 Corinthians: “Therefore I take pleasures in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

As you point out in the book, Judge Amy Coney Barrett – another deeply committed Catholic – was in the running for what became Kavanaugh’s seat. At least if a Republican president nominates the next judge for the Supreme Court, she is likely to be a contender once again. Given your reporting on the Kavanaugh nomination, what do you think would be in store for someone like her if she ever ends up being a nominee?

Our research indicates that confirmation battles heat up most when Republican presidents are naming someone to fill a seat that was held by a liberal or swing vote. The intensity of the attacks on the next nominee may well be more determined by whether he or she is replacing a liberal or conservative justice than by the identity of the nominee.

Since Barrett’s previous confirmation hearing involved attacks on her Catholic faith and practice, and further attacks on the Knights of Columbus have since emerged in other nominations, it is likely that criticism of her faith would resurface if she were nominated to the high Court.


3. The Need for Foster Care Is Great, So Let Faith-Based Agencies Provide It.

By Kathryn Jean Lopez, National Review Online, July 29, 209, 6:30 AM

Adults should not let their differences of opinion on social issues impede this essential service for children.

Right now, with opioid addiction adding to the need for foster parents around the country, testimonies like that of the Quinns need to be told, to help inspire others to consider taking up this work of the heart for children. But the reason they are in the news is the legal battle over religious liberty.

Andrea Picciotti-Bayer is legal adviser for the Catholic Association Foundation. In an amicus brief associated with a case, brought by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, that could be taken up by the Supreme Court next term, she tells the story of the Quinns and just some of the lives they’ve touched. It’s between the City of Philadelphia and Catholic Social Services of the local archdiocese, which for over a century has been working with government there to place foster children in homes. The city stopped the partnership because of Church teaching on sexual morality. But whatever one thinks of same-sex marriage or any of the other hot-button issues that do hit at the heart of family life, people like the Quinns are exactly the kind of people whom children like Jaime need. Adults should not let their differences of opinion impede this vital service that faith-based agencies such as Catholic Social Services provide.

The Quinns first came to foster care after answering a parish-bulletin request about Jaime, who was then four years old. Then Debby, at two, and Gus, at eight. “Gus was a skinny little boy, and Debby had a very sad face. Her eyes were not alive when we got her,” Quinn told Picciotti-Bayer. After a few months in a stable, loving home, Debby’s eyes “lit up.” That’s when Quinn realized she was in this work for the long term.

“It is difficult when a child leaves after being with them for so long,” Quinn explains about the life of a foster parent. “When a child leaves, a small part of you leaves with them. You have to hope that you were there for a child when the child needed help. When people ask me ‘Why do you do it?’ I respond that my faith teaches me to respond ‘Why not?’ I can’t help the whole world, but I can help one baby at a time.”

As Picciotti-Bayer observes, “not everybody can foster or adopt, but each of us should do all we can to support loving homes for needy kids. Barring Philadelphia’s Catholic Social Services foster-care program because of the agency’s beliefs on marriage is an affront to the freedoms in the Constitution. And, perhaps more tragically, it closes a door for children in Philly needing homes free from abuse and neglect.”

“More, not less” has to be our mantra when it comes to foster-care and adoption. Defending freedom happens to be not only right and just — it can be a lifesaving business.


4. Pope to nations: Act fast to stop more migrant deaths at sea.

The Associated Press, July 28, 7:11 AM

Pope Francis is appealing for swift, decisive action by governments so that more migrants don’t die at sea.

Francis on Sunday bowed his head in silent prayer for the migrants, perhaps as many as 150, who perished last week in the Mediterranean Sea in shipwrecks of smugglers’ boats near the Libyan coast. He invited the faithful in St. Peter’s Square to join him in praying for the victims and their families.


5. France marks 3rd anniversary of priest’s murder by Islamic terrorists.

By Claire Giangravè, Crux, July 28, 2019

On the third anniversary of the murder of French Father Jacques Hamel by Islamist terrorists, some local clergy and politicians are striving to promote his legacy of dialogue and peace.

“It’s right for our spirit to rebel against the homicide of a priest in his church, against all forms of violence,” said Archbishop Dominique Lebrun of Rouen during his homily on Friday at the church where Hamel was killed.

“We must fight for peace,” he added. “Father Jacques Hamel gave his life for this.”

On July 26, 2016, the 86-year-old Hamel was held hostage in the Church of St. Stephen in Saint-Étienne-du-Rouvray, near Rouen, by two Muslim extremists: Adel Kermiche and Abdel Malik Petitjean. After 40 minutes, the terrorists, who later pledged their allegiance to ISIS, slit Hamel’s throat.


6. Cuban cardinal, dead at 83, was a truly remarkable churchman.

By John L. Allen Jr., Editor, Crux, July 28, 2019

In the end, the advent of a Latin American had to await one more papacy, and even then it wasn’t Ortega. Nonetheless, the memory came back to me when the news broke Friday that Ortega had died from pancreatic cancer at the age of 83.

Born in 1936, Ortega was ordained in 1964, while the Second Vatican Council was still underway and just five years after Fidel Castro had swept to power. Two years later, largely on account of his successful pastoral outreach to Cuban youth, he was imprisoned by the country’s new government, spent a year in a labor camp for what was then called “reeducation”, and eventually was released.

Flash forward a decade, and the promising young Cuban priest was made a bishop under St. Pope Paul VI. He was obviously being groomed for bigger things, and just three years later he was named the Archbishop of Havana, effectively the leader of the Cuban Church, under St. John Paul II.

During his 35-year tenure, Ortega became known around the world for one quality above all: Prudence. He would chide the Castro regime when it threatened religious freedom, but always gently and with discretion. He would also support the regime on certain matters of domestic and foreign policy, but again always with a sufficiently deft touch that he left the difference between a Catholic and an ideological approach to social questions clear.

Ortega never became pope, but he was nevertheless one of the most remarkable churchmen of his time, so it’s appropriate to say today, on behalf of Catholics everywhere: Requiescat in pace.


7. Is American Religious Liberty in Peril? The Growing Threat To Faith Institutions: Conform or Close.

By David French, The Wall Street Journal, July 27, 2019, Pg. C1, The Debate Over Religious Liberty, Part 1
Mr. French is a senior writer for National Review and a columnist for Time. He previously litigated First Amendment cases as a senior counsel at the Alliance Defending Freedom. Ms. Hamilton is a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, CEO of CHILD USA, and the author of “God vs. the Gavel: The Perils of Extreme Religious Liberty.”

As the 2020 presidential contest begins, it’s worth reflecting on one of the issues that made Donald Trump president—religious liberty. And it’s worth remembering a moment that helped him to win.

 The date was April 28, 2015, and the case was Obergefell v. Hodges—the case that created the constitutional right to same-sex marriage. But it wasn’t the recognition of gay marriage that cost Democrats. Public opinion had been trending strongly in that direction for some time. No, it was a moment buried deep in the oral argument transcript that sent shock waves through the conservative Christian establishment.

Justice Samuel Alito asked President Barack Obama’s solicitor general Donald Verrilli, Jr. whether constitutional recognition for same-sex marriage would lead to stripping federal tax exemptions from religious colleges that oppose gay marriage, in the same way that federal law strips tax exemptions from colleges that oppose interracial marriage or interracial dating. Rather than immediately answering “no,” Mr. Verrilli said, “It’s certainly going to be an issue.”

And just like that, millions of American Christians could easily and quickly imagine a future where the law held their traditional, orthodox religious beliefs—the beliefs of the Catholic Church and every significant evangelical denomination in America—in the same regard as it held the views of vile racists.

 What is religious liberty under the Bill of Rights? It includes not only the right of “free exercise” guaranteed in the First Amendment, along with freedom from a state-established church, but also rights of free speech and freedom of association. This means that religious liberty isn’t just individual, it’s collective. Indeed, one can’t enjoy true religious liberty without also guaranteeing the right of voluntary association—the right of religious individuals to create their own institutions and to govern them according to religious rules.

As the modern administrative state expanded, it was inevitable that it would collide with religious communities and test the constitutional structure. As it did, it gave birth to two pernicious legal fictions.

The first (sadly echoed for a time by the conservative judicial luminary Justice Antonin Scalia) is that when statutes or regulations collide with free exercise, it is religious people who are engaged in a form of “special pleading” to exempt themselves from the law. In reality, however, when the administrative state collides with the Constitution, it is the regulators and administrators who are engaged in special pleading. They are seeking carve-outs from the supreme law of the land.

The second fiction is that claims of religious freedom—especially when they conflict with nondiscrimination law—are often just a pretext, an effort to win a license for bigotry. Time and again, isolated Christian requests for freedom of conscience are treated as if they’re akin to the terrible regime of Jim Crow.

Today, the rights to free exercise, speech and assembly confront the desires of lawmakers and bureaucrats to regulate, restrict and coerce. People of faith are the canary in the coal mine of the First Amendment, and religious Americans are right to believe that their freedom is under fire.


8. Is American Religious Liberty in Peril? Too Much Harm Is Done in the Name of Religious Liberty.

By Marci Hamilton, The Wall Street Journal, July 27, 2019, Pg. C1, The Debate Over Religious Liberty, Part 2
Mr. French is a senior writer for National Review and a columnist for Time. He previously litigated First Amendment cases as a senior counsel at the Alliance Defending Freedom. Ms. Hamilton is a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, CEO of CHILD USA, and the author of “God vs. the Gavel: The Perils of Extreme Religious Liberty.”

The bill that emerged was brilliantly but misleadingly named the “Religious Freedom Restoration Act,” or RFRA. It was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Clinton in 1993. But it didn’t “restore” First Amendment law; it created a new version of extreme religious liberty on demand.

RFRA dramatically shifted the balance of power away from the priority long assigned by the Court to the common good; it gave every believer a broad right to relief from any generally applicable law that “substantially burdened” religion. Religious groups had been unable to persuade the Justices to do this, but they persuaded members of Congress, who happily but naively donned the mantle of supposed saviors of religious liberty.

The problem from the beginning with RFRA (and with the similar laws passed in over 20 states after it was struck down) is that it led believers down an illegitimate path. They were told that they have a “right” to ignore laws enacted for the general good and to focus solely on their religiously motivated conduct. On this view, harm to others is simply collateral damage necessitated by one’s faith. Where such statutes still apply, they have been a recipe for culture wars driven by religious triumphalism.

Mistaken thinking about religious liberty has created privileges for the supposedly righteous to harm and exclude others. It undergirds the Trump administration’s eager support for discrimination against the LGBTQ community and the exclusion of transgender troops. It prescribes a “right” to shut your shop to same-sex couples, because your faith outweighs their right to equal treatment in the marketplace.

 Marci Hamilton repeatedly casts religious people as seeking special favors. She says the Religious Freedom Restoration Act “led believers down an illegitimate path” by telling them that “they have a ‘right’ to ignore laws enacted for the general good and to focus solely on their religiously motivated conduct.”

But her analysis gets it backward. The First Amendment is the key law in question, enacted by the founding generation for the “general good.” As part of the Constitution, it is the supreme law of the land. When governments pass measures that conflict with the First Amendment, it’s the government that pleads for the “right” to avoid the higher law.

The modern religious liberty cases that divide our body politic are fundamentally different and demonstrate the intrusion of the administrative state into the religious conscience. Should religious colleges receive tax exemptions if they maintain traditional sexual misconduct policies? Should student religious groups be able to reserve their leadership for people who share their faith? Should religious creative professionals be forced to create art for events they believe to be immoral? Should religious adoption agencies be forced to abandon their religious beliefs when making placement decisions for children?

 In none of these cases is a religious group blocking any person from receiving the benefit they seek. Dissenters from religious orthodoxy can choose a different college, form their own student groups, find different florists or bakers, and use other adoption agencies.

Our culture is laden with educational and commercial choice. But if Ms. Hamilton’s vision prevails, that choice would diminish. The message to religious institutions in multiple sectors of American society would be blunt: conform or close.

Ms. Hamilton is a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, CEO of CHILD USA, and the author of “God vs. the Gavel: The Perils of Extreme Religious Liberty.” Mr. French is a senior writer for National Review and a columnist for Time, and previously litigated First Amendment cases as a senior counsel at the Alliance Defending Freedom.


9. NIH issues strict new rules for funding of fetal tissue research.

By Amy Goldstein, The Washington Post, July 27, 2019, Pg. A3

The National Institutes of Health issued instructions on Friday for how scientists seeking grants for research using fetal tissue must comply with recent Trump administration restrictions on federal funding of such studies. The new requirements triggered an immediate outcry from leaders in the field.

In a notice spelling out the rule changes, NIH says that all grant applications and renewals for research relying on tissue collected from elective abortions must provide a detailed justification, documenting why no alternative methods could accomplish the same research goals. This and other changes for scientists at universities and other institutions take effect in two months.

The instructions also impose stringent requirements for how grant applicants must prove that women had given permission for their aborted fetuses to be donated for research. 


10. Catholic charities tested by abuse scandals, border crisis.

By David Crary, The Associated Press, July 27, 2091, 8:16 AM

For U.S. charities affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church, the past year has tested the resilience of their fundraisers and the loyalty of their donors in unprecedented fashion.

For the agencies with the most donors, Catholic Charities and Catholic Relief Services , it’s too early to gauge the overall financial impact of sex-abuse developments last year.

 Catholic Charities USA, which oversees operations of its affiliates in dioceses nationwide, has recently issued urgent appeals for more donations to help address the needs of immigrants and refugees, notably along the U.S.-Mexico border.

A national survey released in June by the Pew Research Center reinforced Markham’s concerns; it reported that one-fourth of Catholics said they had reduced donations and scaled back Mass attendance because of the abuse crisis.


11. Update: Catholic leaders object to reinstatement of federal death penalty.

By Carol Zimmermann, Catholic News Service, July 26, 2019, 11:00 AM

The July 25 announcement by the Justice Department that it is reinstating the federal death penalty for the first time in 16 years was unwelcome news for Catholic leaders who have advocated against capital punishment.

“The United States’ death penalty system is tragically flawed. Resuming federal executions — especially by an administration that identifies itself as ‘pro-life’ — is wrongheaded and unconscionable,” said Krisanne Vaillancourt Murphy, executive director of Catholic Mobilizing Network, a group that champions restorative justice and an end to the death penalty.

The execution of five inmates on federal death row will take place from December 2019 through next January.


12. Planned Parenthood’s Principal Priority Exposed, The unexpected firing of CEO Leana Wen has exposed real mission and priorities of the U.S. abortion giant.

By The Editors, National Catholic Register, July 26, 2019

The unexpected termination of Planned Parenthood CEO Dr. Leana Wen after less than a year on the job has laid bare the true mission and priorities of the nation’s largest abortion provider.

Wen’s abrupt departure reinforces the reality that, despite Planned Parenthood’s unfounded claims to be a provider of comprehensive health care for women, the organization remains fixated on its abortion business and views progressive political advocacy as the best way to perpetuate this abortion-centric model (see article).

And Wen’s firing, mere months after she succeeded her far more politicized predecessor, Cecile Richards, is a striking testament to the recent successes of the pro-life movement — particularly at the federal level.

Wen’s post-firing comments comprehensively demolish any doubts about Planned Parenthood’s overtly political mentality. “The new board leadership has determined that the priority of Planned Parenthood moving forward is to double down on abortion-rights advocacy,” Wen explained in a letter to the organization’s staff.

Why, though, had the organization hired Wen in the first place, if it really wanted a hardcore activist at the helm?

It is clear that her removal is, in part, a backhanded compliment to the pro-life movement.

At its core, the battle to end abortion in America is a battle to win over minds and hearts — and most especially the minds and hearts of America’s women.

Pro-lifers can deservedly take heart from the fact that they have been successful enough to disconcert Planned Parenthood so profoundly. But the battle to win over enough minds and hearts to put an end to legal abortion remains a long way from being won.


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