1. Religious intolerance on the left.

By The Washington Times, July 9, 2018, Pg. B2, Editorial

George Washington, who saw at first hand the limitations of surmise, conjecture and theory, nailed it. “Reason and experience,” he said, “both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.”

Religion, if not necessarily authentic religious faith, gives the contentious something to argue and fight about. That’s sometimes ugly but nothing wicked about that. Contentious debate is a strength, not a weakness. But some of the most ardent pursuers of civility — those trying not to be rude toward those who disagree with them — occasionally lapse into fits of bigotry and the narrowing of a small mind.

Dianne Feinstein, who has to work at being a thoughtful and reasonable U.S. senator for California and still survive in the hothouse of hysteria that California has become, suffered such a lapse in the discussion of President Trump’s appointments to the federal district courts and his nominees to the U.S. courts of appeal. She forgot, if just for the moment, that she was the thoughtful lady among the Democrats. If you can’t trust a lady to be tolerant and responsible, then who?

Democrats, mindful that the feminists have become a major part of their electoral base, are determined to protect abortion above all — above national security, above the economy, above immigration, above crime — and a Catholic is particularly suspect by Democrats, though the major Protestant denominations are predominantly pro-life, too 

The contentiousness of the search for a replacement for Anthony Kennedy is but a sample of the anger, rage and resentment of the argument to come. The bile will runneth over, so get your boots on.


2. Venezuelan bishops condemn ‘perverse ideology, system of government’. 

By Inés San Martín, Crux July 9, 2018

Each individual life taken during protests against the regime of Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela was “worth more than a revolution,” the bishops of the country said on Saturday.

The bishops’ conference of the South American nation has been holding its July 7-11 general assembly.

The Venezuelan people are speaking, said Archbishop José Luis Azuaje, with thousands of “daily protests” that show the great “discontent that exists before the submission to improvisations” by the government, which indicate a “lack of rationality and expertise of decision makers.”

“These protests indicate the failure of a model that the people have been denouncing at the top of their lungs, and for many years,” said Azuaje, the head of the conference. “But when a fuse has been lit, it won’t go out, it becomes stronger towards its final destination: Integral liberation.”

A fundamental factor for the country to overcome the crisis, he said, is the reconstruction of social leadership, even at a grassroots level. This, he said, will not be “instantaneous,” but a collective effort that wins small battles until “we manage to turn back the evil that creates a society of the needy.”

He also used the opportunity to thank the network of Caritas Internationalis, the international humanitarian arm of the Church, which through its subsidiaries in Latin America and the Caribbean has provided aid in coordination with the bishops’ conferences of neighboring countries.


3. Closed case, open questions surround Vatican’s ex-auditor general. 

By John L. Allen Jr., Editor, Crux, July 8, 2018, Opinion

In a new interview, Libero Milone, the lay Italian financial expert who was named the Vatican’s first-ever Auditor General in 2015 and who resigned under murky circumstances two years later, asserts that a Vatican criminal investigation against him has ended with no charges being filed.

Milone said that he was presented with two receipts for roughly $33,000 from the same company, suggesting he was involved in some sort of financial irregularity. He claims, however, that the signature on one of the documents wasn’t his, even though both carried the seal of his office.

What’s more interesting is what the money was for: Having his office inspected and cleaned of bugging devices, as Milone is convinced he was being spied on. Conversely, he was informed during his interrogation by the gendarmes that he was suspected of spying on others in the Vatican illegitimately.

Those are clearly serious charges, which therefore raises the question of what to make of the fact that the Vatican apparently has decided not to proceed with a criminal trial.

Logically speaking, there are only a handful of possible explanations.

The first is that upon examination, investigators determined that the charges against Milone are false. If so, then seemingly he’d be entitled either to have his job back or to financial compensation. If neither of those things is forthcoming, it would suggest that from the Vatican’s point of view, this is something less than a clean bill of health.

The second possibility is that prosecutors believe Milone is guilty, but they’re concerned they wouldn’t be able to prove it at trial. That’s possible, although given the way rules of procedure in Vatican criminal trials tend to favor the prosecution, one wonders what the basis for such a concern might be.

A third possibility is that the decision not to move ahead is political rather than evidentiary – that whatever the truth of the matter, the greater good in this case is served by letting sleeping dogs lie. If that’s the reality, what’s unclear is what exactly that “greater good” might be, and why it outweighs getting to the bottom of the implosion of what was supposed to be a lynchpin of the pope’s overall financial reform.

Finally, a fourth possibility is that someone in the system with the power to influence which charges come forward and which drop by the wayside wanted this case to go away, presumably on the basis of vested personal interests. Of course, that too would leave open the question of what those interests might be.

At this point, it’s impossible to determine which of those four scenarios, if any, is closest to the truth, or whether elements of all of them are actually in the mix.

What is clear, however, is that at a time when Francis is attempting to move the Vatican in the direction of greater transparency and accountability on multiple fronts, here we have a case in which serious charges of misconduct and abuse of power have been exchanged, yet a year after they surfaced, an investigation is apparently being allowed to expire quietly with no public explanation.

Further, Milone’s reputation has been badly damaged by the fallout from his ouster, which is either entirely justified if he’s guilty or a serious injustice if he’s innocent. Without closure in either direction, it seems he’s fated for a sort of professional limbo, never actually indicted but not quite exonerated either.

Ironically, a man who was hired to inject transparency into the Vatican’s operations is leaving under a cloud of obscurity. Whatever else one might think about that, it would, at least, seem to suggest that the spirit of full disclosure which was the original point of the whole reform is still, sometimes, more honored in the breach than the observance.


4. The Democrats’ abortion war in the Midwest. 

By David Von Drehle, Columnist, The Washington Post, July 8, 2018, Pg. A17

Democrats in the heartland are at war among themselves over choice. As in abortion, yes — but also the choice between purity and popularity.

There’s no question that the wedge of abortion divides Democrats from Republicans in a general sense. But what do Democrats gain by sharpening the wedge? It won’t help them win back the working-class Catholic voters of Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan who were so central to Trump’s electoral college victory. Nor will it help them hold key Senate seats in otherwise red states such as Missouri, North Dakota and Montana.

Purists argue that the impending retirement of Supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy will allow Trump and Senate Republicans to create a conservative majority on the court that is more hostile to abortion rights. This means war, the purists apparently believe, and there’s no room for dissent in the trenches. However, armies don’t shrink their way to victory.

According to the Pew Research Center, on the abortion question most Americans are somewhere in the middle. While 25 percent favor unlimited access to abortion and 16 percent would make all abortions illegal, 57 percent believe it should be legal, but with limits.

The road to new majorities runs through that 57 percent. It’s full of voters who understand that abortion is a nuanced and challenging issue, and a fair number of them — perhaps a decisive number — are looking for a party that reflects this truth through open and humane discussion. Perhaps the place to begin reaching them is in the Midwest, where Democrats have so little to lose.


5. Vatican laments often poor working conditions of seafarers. 

By Associated Press, July 8, 2018, 2:54 PM

The Vatican is calling attention to the plight of merchant seamen and fishermen who may face dismal working conditions and be kept from going ashore when their ships dock in foreign ports.

Pope Francis marked the Catholic Church’s “Sea Sunday” by praying for the world’s estimated 1.2 million seafarers and their families during his traditional Sunday blessing.

The Vatican office that coordinates pastoral care for seafarers issued a message lamenting that boat owners and employers increasingly are refusing to give crews permission to go ashore either because of ship policy or immigration regulations.

The Vatican says chaplains also are being denied access to crew members, many of whom are Christian and come from countries such as Ukraine and the Philippines.


6. Vatican Withdraws Charges Against Former Auditor General. 

By Edward Pentin, National Catholic Register, July 7, 2018

The Vatican has withdrawn charges against its first auditor general, Libero Milone, who had claimed that his June 2017 arrest was an attempt to block his investigations into Vatican finances, where he reportedly was uncovering evidence of corruption.

In an interview aired on the Italian television channel SKY TG24 on Saturday, Milone revealed that the Vatican’s Promoter of Justice and the President of the Vatican Tribunal had informed him that he was no longer “subject to any criminal proceedings or convictions.” 

The Register has learned that the separate inquiry conducted by the Vatican Promoter of Justice with Milone’s lawyers came to the conclusion that no evidence existed to support the accusations that had been lodged against him.

Milone, a former partner with Deloitte, a multinational auditing and consultancy firm, was appointed in 2015 as the first auditor general of the Vatican with a staff of 12 people. Employed as part of the Pope’s financial reforms, he was summarily dismissed after a raid by Vatican police on his office in June of last year. 

The principal responsibility of the auditor general is to oversee the auditing of procedures, internal controls and laws on the part of dicasteries and other Holy See institutions, including the Governorate of the Vatican City State. Among other duties, he is required to submit annual audit reports and perform specific reviews and audits at the request of the Council for the Economy or the Secretariat for the Economy.


7. Pope: Truces imposed by force won’t bring peace to Middle East. 

By Inés San Martín, Crux, July 7, 2018

Closing an ecumenical encounter with Christian leaders from the Middle East, Pope Francis on Saturday said that “truces maintained by walls and displays of power will not lead to peace,” only a concrete desire to engage in dialogue will work.

He also called for an end to the region being used for “gains that have nothing to do with the Middle East,” and demanded that Christians are treated as “full citizens.”

“With deep anguish, but with constant hope, we turn our gaze to Jerusalem, a city for all peoples, a unique and sacred city for Christians, Jews and Muslims the world over,” Francis said, calling for the status quo to be respected, as it has been decided by the international community and “repeatedly requested by the Christian communities of the Holy Land.”

The term “status quo” in the context of Jerusalem refers to an agreement among the various Christian churches of the city regulating control and access to holy sites.

According to the pontiff, only a negotiated solution between Israelis and Palestinians, which has to be “firmly willed and promoted by the international community,” will lead to lasting peace and guarantee the “coexistence of two states for two peoples.”


8. Pope denounces ‘murderous indifference’ by powers in Mideast. 

By Trisha Thomas and Nicole Winfield, Associated Press, July 7, 2018, 8:51 AM

Pope Francis on Saturday denounced the “murderous indifference” that has allowed violence to consume the Middle East and drive tens of thousands of Christians from their homes, calling out global powers for seeking power and profit at the expense of the region’s people during a remarkable gathering of Orthodox patriarchs and Catholic leaders.

Francis hosted the daylong ecumenical service in the Adriatic port city of Bari, considered a religious bridge between East and West and home to the relics of St. Nicholas, an important saint in the Orthodox Christian world.

Denouncing the weapons trade that fuels the region’s wars, he urged global powers to stop their “thirst for profit that surreptitiously exploits oil and gas fields without regard for our common home, with no scruples about the fact that the energy market now dictates the law of coexistence among peoples!”


9. Pope sends top diplomat to Congo amid standoff with Kabila. 

By Associated Press, July 6, 2018

Pope Francis is sending a top-level diplomat to the Holy See’s embassy in Congo after the Vatican was compelled to recall its ambassador earlier this year over clashes with the government of President Joseph Kabila.

Monsignor Ettore Balestrero is currently the Vatican’s ambassador to Colombia and had prior been the Vatican’s deputy foreign minister.

The Vatican said Friday he was being dispatched to Kinshasa to “settle” the affairs of the embassy, unusual diplomatic lingo that suggests the Congolese government hasn’t formally accepted the nomination.

Catholic activists have led nationwide demonstrations against Kabila’s extended rule. The Catholic Church oversaw the signing of an accord a year ago that set a date for a new election in the mineral-rich country, but the election has been repeatedly postponed.