1. AMA stance on assisted suicide up for vote, Doctors group has long opposed practice but could take neutral view. 

By Lindsey Bever, The Washington Post, June 11, 2018, Pg. A3

Although medically assisted death has gained ground in this country — with six states and the District of Columbia legalizing the practice — it remains a divisive issue among health-care providers. The American Medical Association, the nation’s most prominent doctors’ group, has maintained the same guidancefor the past quarter-century: “Physician-assisted suicide is fundamentally incompatible with the physician’s role as healer, would be difficult or impossible to control, and would pose serious societal risks.”

Yet this week in Chicago, the AMA House of Delegates will debate and vote on whether the association’s Code of Medical Ethics should be revised.

The AMA’s Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs spent two years reviewing resolutions, not so much on whether to support the practice but on whether to take a neutral stance. The council is recommending that the Code of Medical Ethics “not be amended” and continue to refer to “physician-assisted suicide,” saying that language still “describes the practice with the greatest precision.” The delegates could accept the recommendation or send it back for further review.

It’s uncertain which way the vote will go, but in an open forum on the AMA’s website, doctors, delegates and others showed strong support for the status quo. That position is increasingly at odds with public opinion, with polls showing many Americans saying doctors should be allowed to help terminally ill patients end their lives.


2. A wake-up call on a crisis, We need new approaches to suicide prevention. 

By The Washington Post, June 11, 2018, Editorial, Pg. A18

A report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released last Thursday — two days after Ms. Spade’s death and a day before the death of Mr. Bourdain — found that suicide rates have increased in all but one state over the past two decades, with half of the states showing increases of more than 30 percent. Nearly 45,000 Americans age 10 or older died by suicide in 2016 — more than twice the number of homicides — making it the 10th-leading cause of death and one of three that is increasing. Among people ages 15 to 34, suicide was the second-leading cause of death in 2016.

Among the factors cited in the report were social isolation, lack of mental-health treatment, gun ownership, and drug and alcohol abuse.

The rise in suicides in the United States crosses lines of age, gender, race and ethnicity. It is time to treat it like the public-health crisis it is.


3. Pope Francis to Big Oil: Stop Searching for Fossil Fuels. 

By Bradley Olson and Francis X. Rocca, The Wall Street Journal, June 11, 2018, Pg. A10

Pope Francis warned against the “continued search” for fossil fuels Saturdayand urged a gathering of oil executives, investors and officials to meet the world’s energy needs while protecting the environment and the poor.

Environmental protection has been a signature theme for Pope Francis, who has said he took the name of St. Francis of Assisi in part because of the medieval saint’s love for the natural world.

At the conference, co-sponsored by the University of Notre Dame and featuring nearly 20 speakers Friday and Saturday, the pope said that an estimated 1 billion people still lack electricity and noted that access to energy is an essential resource for escaping poverty.

But he warned that a failure to reduce the use of fossil fuels would lead to a “spiral of extreme climate changes due to a catastrophic rise in global temperatures, harsher environments and increased levels of poverty.”


4. The Abortion Exception to the Practice of Discrimination. 

By Father Roger J. Landry, Integrated Catholic Life, June 11, 2018

In most political and cultural circles, for decades, there has been much talk, passionate action and legal success in the fight against unjust discrimination. Persons are created equal in dignity and most people naturally rebel when someone suffers prejudice or injustice on the basis of race, ethnicity, sex, age, religion, handicap or other reasons.

But one area that generally gets a pass from the typical opprobrium that attends brazen discrimination is the practice of abortion. Discrimination in favor of abortion is somehow ignored and permitted by so many who in no other circumstances would tolerate it. Among some social circles such discrimination is sometimes almost treated as genteel.

Many know that Planned Parenthood was founded by Margaret Sanger with explicitly eugenic intentions. In a 1932 speech about compulsory sterilization, Sanger spoke about ensuring that “morons, mental defectives, epileptics… illiterates, paupers, unemployables, criminals, prostitutes, dope-fiends” are sterilized so that they don’t have children. In her autobiography she proudly recounted her speech to a Ku Klux Klan meeting in 1926 and in a 1939 letter, she wrote, “We don’t want the word to get out that we want to exterminate the Negro population.” Jesus once said, “A rotten tree produces bad fruit” (Mt 7:17), and we shouldn’t be surprised to discover discrimination in the fruits of a tree that began with such blatant eugenics.

The practice of abortion is clearly racist. In the United States, for example, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), an African-American woman is five times more likely, and a Latina twice as likely, to have an abortion than a white woman. Even though African-American women comprise just 12 percent of the U.S. population, they account for 36 percent of abortions. 28 percent of African-American pregnancies end in abortion, compared to 11 percent of white women. Studies show, however, that African American women do not support abortion more than whites or Hispanics and, yet, when the statistics are controlled for economics, are still three times more likely than white women to have abortions. Could it have anything to do with the fact that a disproportionate number of Planned Parenthood and abortion facilities are built in minority communities?

Internationally, there is an obviously racial and abortive pattern to development assistance. In the last 20 years, for example, there has been a shift in foreign aid budgets to African countries.

The practice of abortion is also sexist. While over the course of several decades there has been much progress ending discrimination against women in the workplace, education, healthcare, culture, access to ownership and control over land and other property, financial services, inheritance law and other legal structures, there has been relatively little work against ending the practice of the systematic discrimination against the youngest girls in the womb. As scholar Mara Hvistendahl documented in her monumental work “Unnatural Selection,” there is now an international deficit of 160 million girls who have gone “missing,” because they have been preferentially chosen to have their lives ended through the combination of pre-genetic screening followed by sex-selection abortion.

The practice of abortion similarly discriminates against the handicapped — and does so baldly. We see this in a particularly repellant way in the case of those diagnosed in the womb with Down Syndrome.

What can we learn from the abortion exception to the practice of discrimination? I think we can see how corrosive permitting abortion is to moral reasoning in general. Most people opposed to racism, sexism and discrimination against those with disabilities are at the very least uneasy with the use of abortion preferentially to eliminate African-Americans, girls, or the physically or mentally disabled. They recognize, however, that if they were to say or insist that abortion shouldn’t be used against certain categories of people, then logically they would have to answer the question why should it be permitted against anyone. If it’s against the human dignity of some, isn’t it against the human dignity of everyone?


5. Pope begins purge in Chilean church over sex abuse scandal. 

By Nicole Winfield, Associated Press, June 11, 2018, 7:01 AM

Pope Francis accepted the resignation Monday of the bishop at the center of Chile’s clerical sex abuse scandal and two others, launching a purge of a Catholic Church that has lost its credibility under an avalanche of accusations of abuse and cover-up.

A Vatican statement said Francis had accepted the resignations of Bishop Juan Barros of Osorno, Bishop Gonzalo Duarte of Valparaiso and Bishop Cristian Caro of Puerto Montt. Of the three, only the 61-year-old Barros is below the retirement age of 75.


6. Catholics can get married outdoors in two places: In Montana, and now in Baltimore. 

By Julie Zauzmer, The Washington Post, June 11, 2018, 6:00 AM

The outdoor wedding, stuff of girlhood fantasy and bridal-magazine photography, has long been off-limits to most Catholics.

No beachside ceremonies or mountaintop nuptials: The code of canon law, straight from the Vatican, says that marriages performed by a priest are meant to be celebrated in the bride or groom’s parish church.

But some U.S. dioceses are starting to test the boundaries of that law, which says that with permission of the proper Catholic authority, a priest can perform a marriage in “another suitable place.” The Archdiocese of Baltimore began testing a new policy in February that allows priests and deacons to request to marry a couple somewhere other than their parish church.

Archdiocese Chancellor Diane Barr said priests have asked to marry 50 couples in venues such as hotels and museums, and Barr’s office has approved all the requests. About a third of the requested venues are outdoors, she said.

But priests came to the chancellor’s office saying more and more young people were skipping Catholic marriage ceremonies altogether because they wanted a personalized venue. So Baltimore decided to take a route that the Diocese of Helena, Mont., took two years ago — allowing priests to perform wedding ceremonies in an array of locations, including outdoors.

Barr said that some other dioceses do the same on a sporadic or case-by-case basis but don’t publicize the policy.


7. Pope Urges Oil Executives to Act on Climate: ‘There Is No Time to Lose’. 

By Elisabetta Povoledo, The New York Times, June 10, 2018, Pg. A8

Three years ago, Pope Francis issued a sweeping letter that highlighted the global crisis posed by climate change and called for swift action to save the environment and the planet.

On Saturday, the pope gathered money managers and titans of the world’s biggest oil companies during a closed-door conference at the Vatican and asked them if they had gotten the message.

In an era when the White House is viewed by many scientists as hostile to the very idea of climate change, with President Trump announcing the United States’ withdrawal from the Paris climate accord, Francis is seen as an influential voice to nudge oil executives to take action on the issue.

To date, according to the Global Catholic Climate Movement, dozens of Catholic institutions have divested from fossil fuels, including Caritas Internationalis, a confederation of relief organizations; Catholic banks with more than 7 billion euros, or $8.3 billion, on their balance sheets; archdioceses; religious orders; and lay movements.


8. Grim Trends in Good Times. 

By Ross Douthat, The New York Times, June 10, 2018, Pg. SR9

In the United States in the years after the Great Recession, pessimists had a lot of material to work with. Economic doomsayers looked at the stubbornly elevated unemployment rate and discerned a depressing new normal… Social pessimists looked at the disarray in working-class culture, the retreat from marriage and child rearing and civic and religious life, the spread of loneliness and depression and addiction, and saw a society where ordinary forms of flourishing were slipping out of reach.

Five years ago it was easy to tell a story where these two problems were straightforwardly conjoined, with economic disappointment driving social dysfunction and vice versa.

More recently, though, the problems have partially decoupled. The deepest economic pessimists have turned out to be wrong, for now at least, about how fast the 21st-century American economy can grow and how many jobs it can create. But as the economic picture has improved, the social picture hasn’t. 

And yet: The hope that material growth would heal our social problems hasn’t been vindicated so far. And as long as that’s the case, the improved economy shouldn’t be treated just as an end unto itself, but as an opportunity to look for social cures as well.

For policymakers, that quest for healing starts with not doing any harm. If the economy is really cooking for the first time in almost 20 years, well, then let it cook.

Then, beyond the realm of legislation, there are various ways our civic institutions can take the grimmer social trends more seriously. For instance, instead of just letting themselves be carried along by information-age propaganda, our schools and colleges should look harder at the ways in which the smartphone era might be making social life worse among the young 

Likewise America’s churches, whose weakening is part of the story of growing anomie, should recognize the new mission fields that social disintegration has created here at home — in once-pious working-class neighborhoods, or among the lonely late-middle aged and isolated elderly.


9. Polish bishops sidestep Communion debate in new ‘Amoris Laetitia’ guidelines.

By Charles Collins, Crux, June 10, 2018

Bishops in Poland have said the Church needs to serve “people living in irregular relationships according to the pastoral criteria proposed by Pope Francis: Acceptance, accompaniment, discernment and integration.”

The statement came in a set of pastoral guidelines issued for Francis’s 2016 document on the family, Amoris Laetitia.

In the document, the bishops do not directly address the issue of giving Communion for divorced-and-civilly married Catholics, but the Polish hierarchy does devote an entire section to Amoris Laetitia’s controversial chapter 8, which seems to offer a cautious opening to changing Church practice.

Different bishops’ conferences around the world have come to different conclusions about the meaning of this chapter of Amoris Laetitia, with some – such as the bishops’ conferences of Argentina and Malta – issuing guidelines which say communion can be given to those in “irregular unions” under some circumstances, and others – such as the bishops of Kazakhstan and the original 2017 statement from the Polish bishops – saying it can never be allowed.


10. Pope to oil execs: Energy needs mustn’t destroy civilization. 

By Associated Press, June 9, 2018, 5:22 PM

Pope Francis told leading oil executives Saturday that the transition to less-polluting energy sources “is a challenge of epochal proportions” and warned that satisfying the world’s energy needs “must not destroy civilization.”

The Vatican said Francis held a two-day conference with the executives as a follow-up to his encyclical three years ago that called on people to save the planet from climate change and other environmental ills.

Participants included the CEOs of Italian oil giant ENI, British Petroleum, ExxonMobil and Norway’s Statoil as well as scientists and managers of major investment funds. Their remarks on the first day of the closed-door conference were not released by the Vatican.

While Francis lauded the oil executives for embedding an assessment of climate change risks into their planning strategies, he also put them on notice for their “continued search for fossil fuel reserves,” 2½ years after the Paris climate accord “clearly urged keeping most fossil fuels underground.”


11. Australian bishop protests law requiring priests to break seal of confession. 

By Catholic News Agency, June 9, 2018, 3:57 AM

A new law in Australia will require Catholic priests in Canberra to break the seal of confession to report child abusers, drawing adamant opposition from Church officials.

“Priests are bound by a sacred vow to maintain the seal of confession,” said Archbishop Christopher Prowse of Canberra and Goulburn, adding “without that vow, who would be willing to unburden themselves of their sins?”

In a June 6 article for the Canberra Times, Prowse cautioned that “the government threatens religious freedom by appointing itself an expert on religious practices and by attempting to change the sacrament of confession while delivering no improvement in the safety of children.”

“Sadly, breaking the seal of confession won’t prevent abuse and it won’t help our ongoing efforts to improve the safety of children in Catholic institutions,” the archbishop continued.

On Thursday, the ACT Legislative Assembly in Canberra passed a law requiring religious organizations to fall under the legal requirements of the mandatory Reporting Conduct Scheme. Religious groups and their “activities, facilities, programs or services” will be required to report any allegations, offences or convictions of child abuse within 30 days.


12. Government officials destroy Way of the Cross in China’s Henan province. 

By Catholic News Agency, June 9, 2018

The sanctuary of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in China’s Henan province is a popular pilgrimage site for many Catholics, where thousands have journeyed since its founding in 1903 to pray and walk the shrine’s Way of the Cross.

However, on the evening of June 5, local government authorities tore down the sanctuary’s images of Christ along the Way of the Cross, only weeks after Chinese officials told Bishop Joseph Zhang Yinlin of Weihui (Anyang) to dismantle the Way of the Cross without any given reason.

The Way of the Cross was demolished during the night on Tuesday, said Zhang, when “excavators and pickup trucks were driven to the site at night because authorities feared there would be too many church members in the daytime,” according to ucanews.com.

Local nuns took videos and pictures of the damages and sent them to chat groups to record the vandalism. One religious source said the Communist Party was making an example out of the sanctuary, saying the government would “allow Catholicism to exist but not develop.”


13. German bishops react to Vatican decision on communion for Protestants.

By Catholic News Agency, June 9, 2018

Several German bishops have reacted with surprise, consternation and criticism to the Vatican’s rejection of a proposal to allow Protestants married to Catholics to receive the Eucharist in certain circumstances. One prominent cardinal has said he is “furious” with how the Communion debate is playing out.

In a May 25 letter, Cardinal-elect Luis Ladaria, the Prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine of Faith, raised “a series of problems of considerable importance” with the German proposal and declares it not mature enough for publication.

The letter was published on June 4 by Vatican journalist Sandro Magister.

On the same day, the head of the German bishops’ conference, Cardinal Reinhard Marx released a statement saying he was “surprised” at the letter.

In his June 4 statement, Marx noted that at a gathering in Rome on May 3, 2018, “the bishops participating in the meeting were told that they ‘should find a solution that is as unanimous as possible in the spirit of ecclesial communion,’” and he was therefore surprised to receive the letter “before such a unanimous settlement had been reached.”

Marx said that he sees a “further need for discussion within the German bishops’ conference…but also with the corresponding Roman dicasteries and the Holy Father himself.”

On June 6, the Chairman of the Ecumenical Commission of the German Bishops’ Conference (DBK), Bishop Gerhard Feige of Magdeburg, published an editorial on katholisch.de, a DBK website, in which he expressed disappointment at the response from Rome, and sharply criticized the “moral double standards” of bishops raising concerns over the proposal to the Vatican while allowing Protestants to receive Communion in their own diocese for pastoral reasons.

The Bishop of Magdeburg drew a connection between allowing divorced and remarried Catholics to receive communion in some circumstances, which the German Bishops Conference, amongst others, introduced in guidelines issued in the wake of Amoris Laetitia.

One day after Feige’s remarks, Cardinal Walter Kasper also went public with an editorial published by the German bishops’ conference website.

After writing that he is “furious” that the letter to Marx apparently was leaked to the press before even reaching its destination, Kasper expressed “puzzlement” at “the impression that even those who should know better should claim that non-Catholic Christians are fundamentally excluded from communion, or that this should at least first be clarified by the Universal Church.”


14. Pope clears way for beatification of slain Argentina bishop. 

By Associated Press, June 9, 2018

Pope Francis has cleared the way for the beatification of an Argentinian bishop who was assassinated during the country’s military dictatorship in 1976.

The Vatican on Saturday announced that Enrique Angelelli was being recognized as a martyr killed for his faith. The status allows Angelelli to be beatified — the first step toward sainthood — without having a miracle attributed to his intercession.

A miracle still would be needed for canonization.


15. Vatican seeks ‘courageous’ ideas to combat priest shortage. 

By Nicole Winfield, Associated Press, June 8, 2018

The Vatican called Friday for courageous proposals to cope with a shortage of priests in the Amazon, and said it wouldn’t rule out debate on whether married men could step in to fill the “precariously-thin presence” of the Catholic Church in the vast region.

In a preparatory document seeking input from South American bishops for the Vatican’s 2019 meeting on the Amazon, organizers also said the church must identify new “official ministries” for women to play in the region.

The call was not a suggestion that women could be ordained priests, which Catholic doctrine forbids and Pope Francis has reaffirmed.

But it leaves open the door to making official some ministries that women in remote parts of Latin America already perform, including celebrating baptisms.

And it calls for “new ways” to increase access to the Eucharist in a part of the world where the church counts around one priest for every 10,000 Catholics and where remote communities can go weeks or months at a time before a priest arrives to celebrate Mass.