1. Archbishop Moves Toward Sainthood.

By Francis X. Rocca, The Wall Street Journal, July 8, 2019, Pg. A2

The late American Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, a pioneer of televangelism in the mid-20th century, moved a step closer to sainthood after Pope Francis officially recognized a miracle associated with him.

The miracle, which the Vatican didn’t specify, opens the way for Archbishop Sheen to be beatified or declared “blessed.” A second miracle, occurring after beatification, is normally required before a blessed is canonized as a saint.


2. Pope defends migrants after clashes between Italy and rescue ships.

By Philip Pullella, Reuters, July 8, 2019, 6:40 AM

Pope Francis said on Monday that “no one is exempt” from helping migrants, in an indirect rebuke of Italy’s hardline interior minister Matteo Salvini who has tried to shut the country’s ports to non-governmental migrant rescue ships. 

Francis celebrated a closed-door Mass especially for migrants in St. Peter’s Basilica on the sixth anniversary of his trip to Lampedusa, the southern island where tens of thousands of migrants from north Africa have arrived in recent years. Thousands have died at sea trying to make it there. 


3. AP-NORC Poll: Americans rarely seek guidance from clergy.

By Jeff Karoub, The Associated Press, July 8, 2019, 8:04 AM

The poll finds about a third of Americans saying they attend church or other religious services at least twice a month; roughly a quarter never go. Among religious adults who attend services at least twice a month, about half say they sometimes or often consult with a religious leader. That compares with 16% of religious adults who attend services less often.

And while the poll finds a majority of Americans still identify with a specific faith, about half overall say they want religious leaders to have little influence in their lives.

Tim O’Malley, a theology professor at Notre Dame University, said he suspects that technological self-service is among the factors contributing to infrequent contact with clergy.

“In American life, there has ultimately been a broad rejection of ‘experts’ apart from the person searching for the answer on his or her own,” O’Malley said in an email. “Think about the use of Google. You can literally Google anything. Should I have children? What career should I have? When should I make a will? How do I deal with a difficult child?

“In this sense, there has been a democratization of information based on the seeking self,” he added. “You can find the information more easily through a search engine than finding a member of a clergy.”

Experts say the clergy sex abuse crisis confronting the Roman Catholic Church also could be taking a toll on consultations between parishioners and priests. According to a recent Pew Research Center survey, about a quarter of U.S. Catholics said the crisis had led them to reduce their attendance at Mass and their donations to the church. Some bishops have acknowledged that many Catholics are distancing themselves from the church because of the furor.

O’Malley, who also serves as director of education for Notre Dame’s McGrath Institute for Church Life, sees “a lack of trust in all sorts of institutions,” including houses of worship.

“Surely the church — the Catholic church in particular — has lost some moral authority in the last 25 years in the United States,” he said. “But it is joined by schools, newspapers, the media in general, etc.”


4. Nigerian Christians plead for U.S. help, Jihadis kidnap for conversions.

By Guy Taylor, The Washington Times, July 8, 2019, Pg. A1

Mrs. Sharibu and a delegation of other Nigerian Christians sought to highlight that anguish on a recent visit to Washington, where they met with U.S. lawmakers and staffers of Vice President Mike Pence.

The group was hosted by Save the Persecuted Christians, a charity focused on anti-Christian violence around the world and by the International Committee on Nigeria (ICON), a nongovernmental aid and advocacy organization focused on Nigeria.

ICON co-founder Stephen Enada said the U.S. should be giving a stronger response to a security crisis in Nigeria that began nearly a decade ago with the rise of Boko Haram and has evolved into a landscape of chaos in the northern part of the country, where minority Christian communities are targeted.

Complicating the crisis are expanding clashes between ethnic Fulani cattle herders, who are mainly Muslim, and Christian farmers spread across Nigeria’s predominantly Muslim northern states.

Religious tension is not new in Nigeria, an oil-rich yet impoverished nation whose population of more than 200 million has long been tensely divided between the majority Christian south and mainly Muslim north.


5. Pope’s Lampedusa Mass a test of ability to sell Europe on welcome.

By John L. Allen Jr., Editor, Crux, July 8, 2019

Shortly after Pope Francis was elected in March 2013, he declared his wish to preside over a “poor church for the poor.” While that was a statement of intent, his first real chance to make it operational came three months later when he visited the tiny Italian island of Lampedusa off the coast of Sicily, marking his first trip outside Rome.

Today, the pontiff celebrates a special Mass for migrants in St. Peter’s Basilica in commemoration of that brief but incredibly symbolic journey six years ago.

To most Americans, the name “Lampedusa” probably doesn’t mean much. Yet for Europeans, and especially Italians, it’s become a shorthand way of referring to the migrant and refugee crisis that’s bedeviled the Old Continent since 2015, when a record 1.8 million people crossed the borders of the European Union without legal documentation.

When Francis visited Lampedusa six years ago, he laid a wreath in the sea to commemorate the roughly 20,000 people believed to have died at that point attempting to make the crossing over the Mediterranean in often overcrowded, rickety and unsafe boats. Explaining his choice to go, he said that TV news reports of the people washing up there had been like a “thorn in the heart.”

Since that visit six years ago, the political and cultural winds seem to have turned against the pontiff. Not only Italy but also Hungary and Poland are governed by anti-immigrant populists, while Marine Le Pen’s National Party in France finished in first place in recent European elections.

All of that means Francis’s Mass today may actually be more consequential than his actual visit to Lampedusa six years ago.


6. Between Folly and Cruelty on Immigration.

By Ross Douthat, The New York Times, July 7, 2019, Pg. SR9, Opinion

We now have multiple case studies, European and American, of how in a globalized and internet-connected world migration can suddenly cascade, how easily a perceived open door can lead to a dramatic rush to enter — and then how quickly the most generous societies can find themselves retreating to enforcement and lurching toward populism.

For this cycle to break, for immigration policy to stabilize instead of whipsawing between folly and cruelty, you would need fraternal correction to happen within both the right-wing and left-wing coalitions.

On the American right, that correction ought to come from religious conservatives and their representatives, who have generally been far too blasé about the conditions in the migrant camps and the Trump administration’s moral responsibility to migrants.

Yes, these conditions reflect funding shortfalls in which Democrats as well as Trump are complicit; yes, some of the problems were also problems under Obama, and liberal partisans are only just now noticing; yes, reckless adult migrants are often responsible for putting children in peril in the first place.

But none of this absolves the United States of a basic responsibility to keep vulnerable people, children above all, in the most humane conditions possible when their detention is required.

This is where the president’s religious supporters should be intervening, should be applying moral pressure, should be working to prove that the immigration restrictions they support can be implemented in accord with basic Christian principles. At the moment their efforts are meager, and that proof does not exist.


7. Pope Francis says attack at Libya migrant center intolerable.

The Associated Press, July 7, 2019

Pope Francis has said that the international community shouldn’t tolerate acts of violence like the air attack that recently struck a detention center for migrants in Libya.

Francis prayed for the victims of the strike, which on Wednesday killed at least 44 people and wounded dozens, in what the U.N. said could amount to a war crime.

The pontiff also said he hoped “humanitarian corridors for the most needing migrants are organised in a concerted and extensive way.”


8. A matter of faith: Democrats embrace religion in campaign.

By Elana Schor, The Associated Press, July 7, 2019, 6:11 AM

When 10 Democratic presidential candidates were pressed on immigration policy during their recent debate, Pete Buttigieg took his answer in an unexpected direction: He turned the question into a matter of faith.

Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, accused Republicans who claim to support Christian values of hypocrisy for backing policies separating children from their families at the U.S.-Mexico border. The GOP, he declared, “has lost all claim to ever use religious language again.”

It was a striking moment that highlighted an evolution in the way Democrats are talking about faith in the 2020 campaign. While Republicans have been more inclined to weave faith into their rhetoric, particularly since the rise of the evangelical right in the 1980s, several current Democratic White House hopefuls are explicitly linking their views on policy to religious values. The shift signals a belief that their party’s eventual nominee has a chance to win over some religious voters who may be turned off by President Donald Trump’s abrasive rhetoric and questions about his character.


9. July 4 a time to cherish Judeo-Christian beliefs at America’s core.

By Father Jeffrey F. Kirby, Crux, July 7, 2019

This past week, the United States celebrated its Independence Day. Two-hundred and forty-three years ago, a ragtag group of colonialists did the unthinkable. Against all odds, they revolted against their sovereign.

Unlike other attempts at colonial rebellion at various times in European history, the new Americans took the surprising step of declaring to the nations what they were doing, why they were doing it, and how moral truth justified their actions. Such clarity was disabling to the superpowers of the day.

And so, on this July 4th weekend, it is worth asking: What were these founding principles? Where did the Founders of the United States find them?

Historically, Western civilization – and the uniquely American way of life that flows from it – was inspired and sustained by the earth-shattering convictions held and taught by the religious creeds of Jewish and Christian believers. The entire basis of the democratic republic of the United States relied upon the worldview of the Judeo-Christian tradition.

If we want a healthy republic and if we want to see the United States flourish and prosper as it has throughout its history, then we must as a people – in both our customs and laws – guard and promote these religiously-inspired convictions. These are the foundation of the United States. They are what made the American Revolution so universal in significance and the United States so exceptional in its way of life.

These are the convictions that have molded and shaped us as a people for over two centuries. They are what we most seriously celebrate this Independence Day weekend.


10. Crystal Cathedral captures the American Catholic story in miniature.

By John L. Allen Jr., Crux, July 7, 2019

By 2012, when the Orange diocese negotiated the sale of the cathedral compound for $57.5 million – a steal by Orange County standards, with some of the most expensive real estate in the world – years of delayed maintenance and the complications of converting a quintessentially Protestant space for Catholic liturgical use made the project one of the most logistically daunting ever undertaken in American Catholicism.

“I really pity whoever gets this place next,” Vann said he was thinking, laughing out loud at the memory.

The joke turned out to be on him, because Vann was named to Orange County in September 2012 and installed in December, meaning the Crystal Cathedral, now Christ Cathedral, was suddenly his baby.

Ten days from today, in a sense that baby will be baptized, as Christ Cathedral will be formally dedicated. That doesn’t mean all the work is done, as the cathedral isn’t actually expected to be open for daily use until February 2020. However, it does mark a major milestone and something of a victory lap for Vann.

The story of Crystal Cathedral is a quintessentially American one, capturing at least three of the defining characteristics of Catholicism in the U.S. over its history.


11. Pope approves miracle for late US Archbishop Sheen.

The Associated Press, July 6, 2019

Pope Francis has approved a miracle bringing the late American Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, known for his revolutionary radio and TV preaching, closer to sainthood.

The Vatican announced the move Saturday, which clears the way for beatification. It comes just weeks after a New York court ruling allowing Sheen’s niece to bury him in Peoria, Illinois, where he was ordained, ending years of litigation and allowing the process for sainthood to resume.


12. Catholics Grapple With Transgender Issues, Church institutions try to heed pope’s call to respect transgender people while rejecting the idea of gender as fluid.

By Francis X. Rocca, Wall Street Journal Online, July 6, 2019, 8:00 AM

In June, the Vatican published its first document addressing the boundaries of gender. Directed at Catholic educators, it criticized the idea that a person’s biological sex at birth can be separated from their gender identity.

But Catholics remain divided. Progressives say the church has to do more to welcome transgender Catholics, while conservatives stress traditional teaching on sexuality and bioethics.

Pope Francis has encouraged both goals. Meeting with a transgender man in 2015, the pope referred to him as “he” and later called for mercy and respect for people in similar situations. But the pope has also denounced what he calls a modern theory of gender that teaches children that they can change their sex at will—and has said it poses a threat to humanity like that from nuclear weapons.

It is up to individual institutions to translate these mixed signals into policy.


13. Vatican Document Fortifies Catholic Schools in Debate Over ‘Gender Theory’.

By Joan Frawley Desmond, National Catholic Register, July 5, 2019

Amid the sweep and spectacle of “Pride Month,” from local parades and corporate ad promotions to “drag queen story hours” in libraries and Twitter hashtag campaigns, the Vatican released a document designed to fortify Catholic educators whipsawed by this cultural moment.

The promotion of “gender theories” that overthrow the immutable reality of biological sex is fueling “a cultural and ideological revolution driven by relativism,” states “Male and Female He Created Them,”  a document released June 10 and signed by Cardinal Giuseppe Versaldi, the prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education.

The document presents the hyperindividualistic ethos of gender theory as a threat to marriage and family formation, and thus to human dignity.

The modern attempt to frame gender as “fluid, flexible, and as it were, nomadic,” means that personal relationships are grounded in “the affection between the individuals involved, irrespective of sexual difference or procreation,” according to the document. “Thus, the institutional model of the family (where a structure and finality exist independent of the subjective preferences of the spouses) is bypassed, in favor of a vision of family that is purely contractual and voluntary.”

The document does not provide detailed practical guidance, but experts and seasoned educators say it offers a good starting point for Catholic schools.


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