1. Justice Department sides with Maine families suing for right to use public funds for religious school.

By Valerie Strauss, Washington Post Online, June 12, 2019, 7:00 AM

The Justice Department is throwing its support to three families suing Maine’s education commissioner, alleging he discriminated against them by not allowing public funds to be used for their children’s tuition at religious schools.

It was the Trump administration’s latest move in an effort to overturn state laws that prevent public money from being used for religious schooling, a stated goal of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. Most states have similar laws, which are increasingly coming under legal attack in part because of President Trump’s 2017 executive order promoting “Free Speech and Religious Liberty.”

In Maine, some districts do not have a public high school for residents to attend. The state’s Town Tuitioning Program allows public money to be spent so those children can attend neighboring public or private secular schools.

Two years ago, the Supreme Court ruled in Trinity Lutheran Church v. Comer that states could not exclude religious institutions from participating in state-funded programs if those programs have a secular intent.

The case involved a Missouri church that had sought funding from a state program to refurbish its preschool playground but was initially denied because the state constitution forbids financially supporting a religious institution. The church sued, and while the policy in the state was subsequently changed by a new governor, the case made it to the high court, where, by a 7-to-2 vote, the justices said the state’s original decision violated the U.S. Constitution’s protection of free exercise of religion.


2. Priests Resign After Probe of Ex-Bishop.

By Talal Ansari, The Wall Street Journal, Jne 12, 2019, Pg. A2

Two Roman Catholic priests resigned from their posts in a West Virginia diocese, church officials said, after an investigation into alleged sexual harassment by the area’s former bishop.

The Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston announced the resignations of Monsignors Anthony Cincinnati and Kevin Quirk. A third priest, Frederick Annie, resigned in September, it said. The diocese didn’t give a reason for the moves.


3. Missouri Abortion Clinic Will Stay Open.

By Jennifer Calfas, The Wall Street Journal, June 12, 2019, Pg. A3

A St. Louis circuit judge ruled Missouri’s only abortion clinic will stay open for now, a decision that temporarily keeps the state from becoming the only one in the U.S. without an operating abortion clinic.

The decision comes amid a flurry of abortion-related legislation in states, including Missouri, where lawmakers last month voted to prohibit abortion, except in emergency, after eight weeks of pregnancy.

As the controversy over public funding for abortion boiled over, Mr. Biden faced a difficulty all too familiar for presidential aspirants: The views of the electorate as a whole won’t matter unless you win the nomination, which often requires you to adopt positions supported by primary voters but not a majority of general-election voters. According to the Politico/Morning Consult poll, Mr. Biden’s shift made 32% of likely Democratic primary participants more likely to support him, compared with 19% who are less likely. But among all voters, the impact is reversed: 19% say they are more likely to support Mr. Biden, while 25% are less likely. That’s because 49% of the electorate favors retaining the Hyde Amendment, with just 33% opposed.


4. Biden Exits Abortion’s Wide Middle Lane.

By William A. Galston, The Wall Street Journal, June 12, 2019, Pg. A17, Opinion

“There is no middle ground on abortion,” blared one headline in the wake of Joe Biden’s abrupt abandonment of his decades-long support for the Hyde Amendment, which prevents the use of federal funds for abortions. “No middle ground” may be true among likely participants in Iowa’s Democratic caucuses. But it is not the case for the electorate as a whole, or even among Democratic voters. There is a nuanced center on this long-contested issue, and Mr. Biden would be ill-advised to abandon it.


5. Abuse survivors protest bishops’ conference, Catholic leaders ready to debate, vote on protocols stemming from pope’s rule.

By Christopher Vondracek, The Washington Times, June 11, 2019, Pg. A8

Holding signs, a small group of sexual abuse survivors convened Tuesday outside a hotel at the Inner Harbor where the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops was holding its annual meeting.

Pressed at a Tuesday news conference in Baltimore on afternoon about why the bishops don’t move to involve laypersons in oversight, Bishop Robert P. Deeley of Portland, Maine, referred to the terms outlined in Francis’ rules.

“Because we are publishing directives for of how a particular document is to be implemented and the document gives flexibility to how it’s going to be applied and you can’t put into legislation what is not already in the governing document,” Bishop Deeley said.

Calling this answer “canonical,” Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, archbishop of Galveston-Houston and president of the bishops conference, spoke more bluntly: “You go as far as you can,” he said.


6. A New Kind of Sacrament.

By Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, Crisis Magazine, June 12, 2019
Most Reverend Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap., is the archbishop of Philadelphia.

In defending Mr. Biden, his advocates have typically pointed to his long-standing support for the Hyde Amendment banning federal funds for abortion; his support for Catholic teaching on various other social issues; and his resistance to late term abortion, all admirable positions. In today’s Democratic Party, these things marked him as a “centrist” and set him apart from the pack of other Democratic presidential hopefuls—nearly all of them hard to his left.

That was before last week.

On June 6, the Wall Street Journal reported (“Biden’s Abortion Views Irk the Left”) that Biden faced growing criticism from abortion activists and his party’s leadership for his Hyde Amendment track record. Exactly 24 hours later, on June 7, the same paper noted that Biden had sharply changed his thinking (“Biden, in Reversal, Backs Abortion Funding”). Translation: The unborn child means exactly zero in the calculus of power for Democratic Party leaders, and the right to an abortion, once described as a tragic necessity, is now a perverse kind of “sacrament most holy.” It will have a candidate’s allegiance and full-throated reverence … or else.

There’s a remark by Thomas More in the film A Man for All Seasons that’s worth remembering in the months ahead: “When statesmen forsake their own private conscience for the sake of their own public duties, they lead their country by a short route to chaos.”

We can’t say we weren’t warned.


7. U.S. bishops face tough questions on new abuse investigation proposals.

By Christopher White, Crux, June 11, 2019

As the U.S. Catholic bishops gathered for a closely watched meeting with the hopes of enacting new standards for bishop accountability, debate over the role lay people could have in their oversight dominated day one of the gathering.

While the bishops are slated to vote on new proposals modeled after Pope Francis’s new ‘motu proprio’, Vos estis lux mundi (“You are the light of the world”), as discussions got underway on Tuesday, it became evident that both bishops and the lay experts had serious concerns that the current extent of lay involvement may not be enough to satisfy frustrated lay Catholics who have grown skeptical of the Church’s handling of abuse.

The new universal Church law now makes it mandatory for all clerics and members of religious orders to report cases of clerical sexual abuse to Church authorities, including when committed by bishops or cardinals.


8. Anomalies Abound in Cardinal Pell’s Abuse Trials.

By Father Raymond J. de Souza, National Catholic Register, June 11, 2019

Does the very improbability of an accusation mean that it is more likely to be true?

That is the argument advanced by prosecutors in the case of Cardinal George Pell, and it indicates a dangerous dynamic in trials for some cases of historic sexual abuse. Convincing evidence leads to a guilty verdict; unconvincing evidence also leads to a guilty verdict.

Cardinal George Pell’s appeal of his convictions for sexual abuse was heard last week in Melbourne, and the proceedings illustrated how sex-abuse trials are different from other sorts of criminal trials. Those anomalies had a role in the false convictions of Cardinal Pell, which I have outlined previously in these pages.

The point here is not that there are wrongful convictions.

Neither is the point here that police forces and prosecutors can be corrupted. The Victoria Police Department, which launched a targeted investigation against Cardinal Pell long before there were any complaints against him, is now known for having massively violated the rights of the accused. There is at the moment a judicial inquiry into the Victoria police and prosecutors, who for 20 years used defense attorneys as confidential informers, a gross violation of due process and fairness.

When it was revealed late last year, the Victoria police and prosecutors labored mightily to cover it up and prevent it from becoming public. So it is beyond dispute that the Victoria police have been for decades, at the highest levels, willing to engage in fraud and cover-up to get those they want.

Cardinal Pell’s case lies now with the appellate-court justices, while Cardinal Pell himself remains in solitary confinement in jail. Whether he remains there will depend on whether the justices conclude that the jury was right to believe an unbelievable story, precisely because it was that.


9. New Syriac Catholic bishop hopes Christianity will thrive again in Iraq.

By Doreen Abi Raad, Catholic News Service, June 11, 2019

Syriac Catholic Auxiliary Bishop Nizar Semaan begins his new mission in Iraq with hope “that Christianity will flourish again” in his homeland.

Semaan chose the Church of the Immaculate Conception in Qaraqosh, Iraq, his birthplace, as the site of his episcopal ordination June 7.

Still scarred from the Islamic State group and not yet fully restored, the church, Semaan said, is “a symbol of what happened to our cities and villages in 2014 until the liberation (in 2017) from ISIS.”


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