1. Pope convenes Big Oil, investors to talk climate change. 

By Amy Harder, Axios, June 1, 2018

Pope Francis is hosting a gathering next week at the Vatican with executives of major oil producers and investment firms to talk about how the companies can address climate change, according to several people familiar with the event.

Why it matters: It’s one of the most significant developments showing how corporations are working with other world leaders on climate change amid President Trump’s whole-scale retreat on the issue.

The big picture: The Pope, BlackRock and big oil companies are increasingly focusing on climate change as cleaner sources of energy have become more competitive, the impacts of a warmer world have become more apparent, and public pressure to address the issue mounts. This meeting reflects this convergence.

Yes, but: While it’s a significant meeting, it’s still just a meeting. Deep political stalemate persists in the United States on the issue. Tensions are flaring over lawsuits alleging big oil companies are liable for climate change and some environmentalists say the industry’s greener moves aren’t big or fast enough. To what degree the Vatican gathering prompts change and new developments is a big question mark.


2. High court action roils Arkansas abortion providers. 

By Emily Wax-Thibodeaux, The Washington Post, June 1, 2018, Pg. A13

The high court’s decision to let stand a state law effectively barring medical abortions roiled providers and patients.

Arkansas has argued that medical abortions are unsafe, in large part because women take the second pill at home, allowing potential complications to arise while not in the direct care of a doctor. Abortion rights activists say the law is a major setback because it specifically restricts what a woman can do to her own body, and they worry that it threatens the promise of ease and privacy that the pills afford. The law requires doctors who provide medical abortions to have a contract with a second doctor who has admitting privileges at a hospital.

Grazie Pozo Christie, a doctor and policy adviser for the Catholic Association, said abortion activists ignore the dangers of inducing a late-first-trimester pregnancy and said something as “complicated and risky” should not be allowed with just cursory oversight.

She said activists “insist that the convenience of a do-it-at home procedure outweighs the dangers, especially for rural and low-income women. But if legalizing abortion was meant to benefit women by bringing the procedure out of the back alley and into the safer and cleaner environments of doctors’ offices, medical abortion is a step back in safety.”


3. Trump Administration Targets State Rules That Women Must Be Told of Abortion Services, Rules in California and Hawaii face scrutiny as U.S. agency pursues aggressive enforcement strategy on abortion, contraception and transgender issues. 

By Stephanie Armour, The Wall Street Journal, June 1, 2018, Pg. A4

The Department of Health and Human Services is investigating requirements by California and Hawaii that anti-abortion “crisis pregnancy centers” tell women about state-subsidized family-planning services including abortion, according to people familiar with the matter.

The HHS Office for Civil Rights has sent letters to the two states saying it has legal authority to investigate these requirements and is doing so, according to the people. The move is part of a new approach under the Trump administration to use civil rights law to roll back Obama-era health-care rules.

Roger Severino, who heads HHS’s civil rights office, said in an interview that he couldn’t comment on any specific investigation or on steps the agency may be taking.

The investigations reflect an aggressive enforcement strategy by President Donald Trump’s HHS on abortion, contraception and transgender issues. The approach is likely to spur legal battles, and it could put millions of dollars in federal funding to the states at risk.

The HHS Office for Civil Rights is undertaking a broad push to investigate whether state laws, hospitals or other entities are infringing on religious beliefs. The office headed by Mr. Severino, an attorney and former scholar at the conservative Heritage Foundation, has created a new division to focus on religious rights and proposed a federal rule that would give it greater enforcement powers.


4. Archdiocese Payment Set in Abuse Cases. 

By Tom Corrigan, The Wall Street Journal, June 1, 2018, Pg. A6

After more than three years in bankruptcy, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis unveiled a reorganization plan that includes a $210 million settlement with hundreds of clergy sexual abuse victims.

The bankruptcy-exit plan, announced Thursday, lays out how the archdiocese expects to repay its creditors, the vast majority of whom say they were sexually abused by the archdiocese’s clergy decades ago. The plan is subject to final approval by Judge Robert Kressel of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Minneapolis.

The settlement underpinning the bankruptcy plan includes the archdiocese, about 450 abuse victims, roughly 180 parishes and 25 insurance carriers.

“I sure hope for those who have been harmed in the past that this brings closure for them,” Twin Cities Archbishop Bernard Hebda said Thursday. “I’m hoping, now that this is resolved, that we will have the opportunity to be partners rather than adversaries in bringing about that healing.”


5. What secularists get wrong about church and state separation, The First Amendment isn’t meant to exclude religion but to avoid favoring one faith. 

By Joseph D’Souza, Joseph D’Souza is the moderating bishop of the Good Shepherd Church and Associated Ministries of India. He also serves as the president of the All India Christian Council, The Washington Times, June 1, 2018, Pg. B3, Opinion

Recently, I had the privilege of sitting in the Rose Garden on the occasion of the National Day of Prayer in the United States as President Trump signed his noteworthy executive order establishing the White House Faith and Opportunity Initiative.

“The faith initiative will help design new policies that recognize the vital role of faith in our families, our communities and our great country,” the president said to those of us present. “This office will also help ensure that faith-based organizations have equal access to government funding and the equal right to exercise their deeply held beliefs.”

In fact, the order goes as far as empowering faith groups to notify the attorney general’s office of any failures from the Executive Branch to uphold religious liberty protections. If anyone suspected Mr. Trump of only paying lip service to the faith community, this executive order has the potential to quell their skepticism once and for all.

Not everybody was so pleased, though.

One group that advocates for secularism in America called the order a “blow to the Constitution.” Certain civil rights groups characterized it as another excuse to discriminate and questioned whether it will actually invite other faiths to participate.

Coming from India — one of the most devout nations on Earth — I’m perplexed by the blatant disregard of many Americans toward the value of faith and its place in the public square.

The biggest flaw in liberal America’s interpretation of separation of church and state is assuming secularism means the absence of religion — when in reality it’s the opposite. Secularism means neutrality toward religion or, as in the vernacular of the U.S. Constitution, that there should be no “established” religion. A truly secular society should result not in the exclusion of faith, but in the equal inclusion of all faiths. My native India, which also establishes freedom of religion in its constitution, could learn from America’s ever-present struggle for religious freedom for all.

 Anyone who has been following the stories of attacks on Christians, hate crimes against Muslims, Dalits and women and the threats by extremists against free speech knows India is in desperate need of prayers.

The problem America and India share is not religion encroaching into state or vice versa, but a lack of true pluralism. The job of a secular government is to invite all faiths to participate in making their communities better.


6. Never again: Pope denounces ‘culture of abuse, cover-up’. 

By Nicole Winfield and Eva Vergara, Associated Press, May 31, 2018, 4:14 PM

Pope Francis became the first pope to publicly denounce a “culture of abuse and cover-up” in the Catholic Church, saying Thursday he was ashamed that neither he nor Chile’s Catholic leaders truly ever listened to victims as the country’s abuse scandal spiraled.

“Never again,” Francis said in a pastoral letter to the Chilean faithful on the eve of another weekend he will spend listening to victims of Chile’s most notorious predator priest. The letter was issued on the same day the Vatican announced its top abuse investigators were returning to Chile on a new mission.

In the eight-page letter, Francis once again thanked victims for their “valiant perseverance” in denouncing abuse and searching for the truth “even against all hopes or attempts to discredit them.”

No other pope has publicly spoken of a culture of cover-up in the church. 


7. Pope to send abuse investigators back to Chile. 

By Inés San Martín, Crux, May 31, 2018

Pope Francis is sending two sex abuse investigators back to Chile, this time exclusively to a diocese led by a bishop accused of cover ups, with what the Vatican says is a mission to “advance the process of reparation and healing” for victims in a country that is seeing new scandals come to light almost every day.

The Vatican announced Thursday that Francis is sending Maltese Archbishop Charles Scicluna and Spanish Monsignor Jordi Bertomeu to the small southern diocese of Osorno. No date for their new mission has been announced.

Earlier this year, Francis sent Scicluna, the Vatican’s former top prosecutor for sex abuse crimes under Pope emeritus Benedict XVI, and Bertomeu, an official of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, to Chile to listen to those who “manifested their will to make known elements they possess” against Bishop Juan Barros, appointed by the Argentine pontiff in 2015 to Osorno.


8. Students, anti-abortion group at odds over fellowship. 

By Associated Press, May 31, 2018, 6:54 PM

Student activists at the University of Minnesota are trying to reinstate a medical school fellowship in reproductive health that the school has delayed following opposition from anti-abortion groups.

University officials announced this month that the fellowship would be delayed for a year as they examine the value of the training. The program was scheduled to begin this fall.

The Reproductive Health Access Project would’ve funded the fellowship, said Lisa Maldonado, RHAP’s executive director. Fellows would’ve worked at a Planned Parenthood center in St. Paul after completing the program.

Opposition to the fellowship began after an article was published in Campus Reform, a conservative higher education news source, according to a university spokesman.

An anti-abortion advocacy group called Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life contacted Kaler and state legislators to express concern about the fellowship after the article’s publishing. The group said it was concerned the fellowship would promote abortions.

The petition accuses the university of giving in to pressure from lawmakers who threatened to pull funding if the institution didn’t remove the fellowship. The petition said that the university as a public institution shouldn’t let partisan politics influence educational programs.

Five Republican state senators have introduced a new bill that would prohibit the university’s Board of Regents from supporting fellowships that provide “training, advocacy or education related to abortions.” It will be reintroduced for consideration next February since it’s late in the session.