1. Survey: Countries increasing legal restrictions on religion. 

By Bradford Richardson, The Washington Times, June 22, 2018, Pg. A8

Governments around the world continue to increase restrictions on religious belief and practice, according to a survey published Thursday.

The Pew Research Center study found that 28 percent of all countries have significant legal restrictions on the exercise of faith, up from 25 percent the previous year and up from 20 percent in 2007, when the Washington-based think tank began tracking the trend.

“Most countries around the world have some form of restrictions on religion — whether it is through laws that limit actions like public preaching or conversion, or actions that can include detaining, displacing or assaulting members of religious groups,” the report found. “A subset of countries, however, has particularly high levels of government restrictions on religion.”

The survey comes as the Trump administration has pushed to bolster religious liberty around the world. The State Department issued its annual Report on Religious Freedom last month, targeting a number of regimes that deny their citizens the right to live by their faith.

The country with the highest score — meaning the most restrictive toward religion — was China at 8.8. Other notable offenders were Iran at 8.5, Russia at 8.1 and Saudi Arabia at 7.7.

The United States received a score of 3.2, down from 3.7 the previous year but up from 1.6 in 2007.


2. Canada Attacks Religious Freedom, We tried to open a law school that upholds Christian values. That’s not allowed. 

By Bob Kuhn, Mr. Kuhn is president of Trinity Western University, The Wall Street Journal, June 22, 2018, Pg. A13, Opinion

Canada legalized same-sex marriage in 2005, amid many promises that traditional religious believers would be protected. Those promises have proved empty. Earlier this month the Supreme Court of Canada told Trinity Western University, which I lead, that it could not open a law school. Accrediting a school that upholds traditional Christian teachings on marriage could send the wrong message to Canadians who disagree with Trinity’s beliefs, we were told.

Trinity simply is being punished for asking its faculty and students to observe traditional Christian teachings on marriage through a community covenant.

The Law Society of Upper Canada, the nation’s oldest and largest, told the high court in Ottawa during oral arguments on Nov. 30, 2017, that accrediting any “distinctly religious” organization would violate the Canadian Charter, which is similar to the U.S. Bill of Rights. It added that when the government licenses a private organization it adopts all its policies as its own. If these arguments had been accepted, they would have spelled the end of Canada’s nonprofit sector. In their zeal to root out the supposed bigotry of traditional religious believers, these lawyers were prepared to dynamite Canada’s entire civil society.

Thankfully the court passed over some of our opponents’ more extreme arguments. Instead, on June 15 it ruled that making Trinity’s faith-based community standards mandatory could harm the dignity of members of the LGBT community who attend Trinity. The majority of the court concluded that this potential dignitary harm to future LGBT law students was “concrete,” while the infringement on Trinity’s religious liberty from refusing to accredit its qualified law program was “minimal.”

We respectfully disagree with the court. 


3. A sign of progress from the Catholic church, The removal of a cardinal is another indicator the church is taking sexual abuse more seriously. 

By The Washington Post, June 22, 2018, Pg. A20, Editorial

“CREDIBLE AND substantiated.” That was the finding of a Catholic Church investigation into allegations that Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, a former archbishop of Washington, sexually abused a minor almost 50 years ago.

The cardinal has been removed from the public ministry at the direction of Pope Francis following investigation by the Archdiocese of New York into charges he abused a teenager while he was a priest in New York. The 87-year-old cardinal, who served as Washington’s archbishop from 2001 to 2006, said in a statementthat he had no recollection of the incident and believes in his innocence, but that he accepted the Vatican’s decision.

For far too long, the hierarchy of the Catholic Church refused to acknowledge it had a priest problem. It coddled abusers, covered up their crimes and turned its back on young victims. Removing Mr. McCarrick from the ministry after listening — truly listening — to a victim raises hopes that the church has taken to heart its promise to do better by the people who look to it for comfort.


4. Thoughts on the King of the Jungle and the World Council of Churches. 

By John L. Allen Jr., Crux, June 22, 2018

As our colleague Christopher White was on the ground in Geneva on Thursdaycovering Pope Francis’s visit to the World Council of Churches, Inés San Martín and I were in Rome watching the live stream of the events and trying to provide back-up.

Without missing a beat, San Martín, watching Francis taking his place on the dais, shot back: “Yeah, and the King of the Jungle just walked into the room.”

Though perhaps without intending it, the one-liner she delivered actually amounts to a great answer to an obvious question: If the pope loves the World Council of Churches so much, then why isn’t the Catholic Church a member?

Here’s the raw truth: The pope – any pope – is, by far, the most recognizable, consequential, and powerful religious leader in the world. The Catholic Church is, by far, the most vertically integrated Christian church in the world, and the Vatican, despite its small physical footprint, is the most important “soft power” in the global community of nations.

If the Catholic Church were to join the WCC, therefore, it would immediately become the dominant force in the organization, essentially blotting other Christian traditions and actors out of the sky.

Moreover, the Vatican’s personnel, infrastructure and organizational capacities would, almost irresistibly, become the spinal column of the WCC, meaning that the organization, for all practical purposes, would risk becoming just another department of the Roman Curia, the central administrative bureaucracy of the Vatican in terms of governance of the universal Church.

In effect, should a pope decide to become a formal member of the WCC, there’s a very real possibility that he would end up drowning out the voice of other forms of Christianity in order to augment it – an ecclesiastical form, in some ways, of destroying the village in order to save it.


5. Pope: Countries should take in as many refugees as they can. 

By Alessandra Tarantino, Associated Press, June 21, 2018, 6:49 PM

Pope Francis urged nations Thursday to take in as many refugees as they can integrate into their societies, but also to invest in places like Africa so migrants won’t turn to human traffickers to reach countries that can offer a better life.

Speaking to reporters on his airplane as he flew back to Rome after a visit to Geneva, Francis also reiterated that he supports the Roman Catholic bishops in the United States who condemned the immigration policy of separating children from parents who enter the U.S. illegally.

He praised both Italy and Greece for being “most generous” in taking in migrants rescued at sea, and said all governments should take in as many refugees as their countries can handle.

“Each country must do this with the virtue of government, which is prudence, and take in as many refugees as it can, as many as it can integrate, educate, give jobs to,” said Francis, who for years has urged nations to be more welcoming to those fleeing war and poverty.


6. Pope, in Geneva, says Christians must work together on peace. 

By Jamey Keaten and Frances D’Emilio, Associated Press, June 21, 2018, 2:45 PM

Pope Francis journeyed Thursday to the well-heeled city of Geneva to encourage all Christians, despite their differences, to join in efforts to foster justice and fight poverty while the rich grow “ever more wealthy.”

The pontiff’s day-long “ecumenical pilgrimage” to the lakeside Swiss city that embraced the Protestant Reformation was aimed at stressing what can unite, rather than divide, Christians.

During his visit, Francis met with a group of Korean Protestants, four from the North and four from the South. Their handshakes and smiles built on the pontiff’s oft-voiced hopes for peace and unity on the Korean Peninsula, especially with the recent summit of U.S. and North Korean leaders.

Francis pitched for greater togetherness at an ecumenical prayer service hosted by the World Council of Churches, which is marking its 70th anniversary this year.

7. Doctor-assisted suicide is contagious, too. Why aren’t we sounding the alarm? 

By Melinda Henneberger, Columnist, The Kansas City Star, June 21, 2018, 1:16 PM, Opinion

For decades, we’ve known that suicide is contagious and that how we talk about it matters. Now, we’re at least starting to see how crucial it is to honor the lives of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain without perseverating ghoulishly on how they died.

One aspect of this conversation that hasn’t been happening, though, and that will delight no one, involves the research that shows assisted suicide is also contagious.

That’s right: Doctor-assisted suicide increases overall suicide rates among the non-terminally ill everywhere it’s made legal. Such laws have a measurable effect on those who aren’t dying, but who are suffering from depression.

A study conducted between 1990 and 2013 and published three years ago in the Southern Medical Journal found the correlation unmistakable: “Controlling for various socioeconomic factors, unobservable state and year effects, and state-specific linear trends, we found that legalizing [physician-assisted suicide] was associated with a 6.3% increase in total suicides.”

In Oregon, which legalized assisted suicide in 1997, suicide rates are more than 40 percent higher than the national average.

And wherever doctors could legally help their worst-off patients end their own lives, more of those in acute but treatable, transitory, psychic pain followed suit.

A study of New York cancer patients suggested that a high percentage of those terminally ill patients who expressed a “high desire for hastened death” themselves suffered from depression, so we don’t always know that even their final decisions are unclouded by a disease other than cancer.

Yet for some reason, assisted suicide for psychiatric patients is not prohibited, but increasingly accepted. An alarm-sounding March piece in the New England Journal of Medicine said, “Physicians in the Netherlands and Belgium have helped a small but growing number of patients with mental illness but no terminal condition to end their lives. In some U.S. states, attempts to extend physician-assisted death to psychiatric patients appear inevitable.’’

Just this week, California reinstated doctor-assisted suicide, which is already legal in Colorado, Vermont, Washington, Oregon, Hawaii, the District of Columbia, and with a court order, Montana.

As it expands further, amid already truly frightening spikes in suicide, especially among military veterans, let’s not be afraid to look at the uncomfortable, unattended and unintended consequences. Let’s at least consider what the science says, instead of talking only about how compassionate these laws are.


8. The Catholic Church’s long history of resettling refugees in the US. 

By Courtney Grogan, Catholic News Agency, June 21, 2018, 4:26 PM

The Catholic Church has resettled nearly one-third of all refugees received by the United States since 1980 through a public-private partnership with a high rate of successful integration of refugees into society, according to a report released in June 2018.

The Center for Migration Studies report examines data on 1.1 million of the refugees resettled in the U.S. from 1987 to 2016. These refugees came from more than 30 countries, including Ukraine, Iraq, Vietnam, Somalia, Bosnia and Burma.

In partnership with its affiliates, the U.S. bishops’ Migration and Refugee Services resettles approximately 30 percent of refugees arriving in the U.S. each year through a network of more than 100 diocesan offices.

“In the United States, we offer a model public-private partnership,” said Ashley Feasley, director of migration policy for the U.S. bishops, at a congressional briefing co-hosted by Catholic Charities USA, Catholic Relief Services, and the U.S. bishops conference.

The American Catholic involvement with refugee resettlement dates back even earlier, as documented in an archive exhibit at The Catholic University of America on the American Catholic Church’s refugee aid from the late 1930s to early 1950s.


9. Returning to ‘Abstinence’ Sex Education in Schools Is Critical, A mom, physician and educator shares the need to protect the ‘hearts, minds and bodies’ of our kids — and to teach dignity. 

By Grazie Christie, Dr. Grazie Christie is a Miami radiologist and a policy adviser with The Catholic Association, Lifezette, June 21, 2018, 9:47 AM

I’m a mother, a practicing radiologist, and a volunteer sexual education teacher in the Miami area, working with students in elementary grades through high school. As a physician on the front lines of trying to keep young people safe from pregnancy, STDs, and the emotional mayhem of the hookup culture, I wholeheartedly applaud the recent turn taken by the Department of Health and Human Services.

This department has redirected a small bit of funding away from sex ed programs that normalize sex for increasingly young kids — and toward the kind of curriculum I teach, in which teenagers are encouraged to avoid sex the way they are encouraged to avoid other risky behaviors, like smoking and drug use.

It’s not just sex ed teachers who are happy about this. Most Americans want their teenagers to wait for sex — and they want programs that encourage their kids to do so. Programs like mine are popular, effective — and terribly underfunded. They are popular partly because parents know that once their children become sexually active, not only are they exposed to obvious dangers, but they also become prey to other, less obvious ones.

You can see that my curriculum starts out from one basic idea: Sex is just bad news for a pre-teen or teenager. Romance is lovely, and so is romantic dating. But for their own good, they need to resist the relentless pressure from most pop music and from Hollywood, which depict sex as pure fun — never showing the emotional and physical toll paid by those who live in the sordid hookup culture. 

Since 2010, when then-President Barack Obama canceled all federal funding for this type of risk avoidance sex ed, nearly a billion tax dollars have been spent on the approach known as Teen Pregnancy Prevention (TPP).

This method is based on a radically different premise: Sexual activity is normal and acceptable for pre-teens and teens, as long as they are fully consenting and using contraception. Our tax dollars are spent encouraging every kind of sexual experience a young person may be exposed to, like pornography, bondage, anal sex, and every variation thereof. Children as young as 11 are sent to sites especially developed for pre-teens.

There is a constant affirmation with TPP that every desire is good and should be pursued, as long as everyone involved is equally enthusiastic. Here is a quote that illustrates that position: “If you take time to make sure you are ready for sex, then it will feel good and you won’t regret it later. And isn’t that the point?”

No, that isn’t the point. Parents want their children to be safe and healthy, physically and emotionally. Slightly defunded by the current administration to the deep dismay of liberals, TPP effectively promotes sex — and some of the riskiest types. Instead, parents and communities are choosing the kind of risk avoidance program I teach, because it shares critical information without normalizing early sex.

And this is happening across the U.S., where more communities are choosing this type of program over sex-normalizing ones.

It’s a wise choice for parents who want health promotion — not sex promotion.


10. Pope says local bishop should make the call on intercommunion.

By Christopher White, Crux, June 21, 2018

After a day of touting ways in which Christians might share in greater unity, that commitment to coming together didn’t prevent Pope Francis from backing the Vatican’s doctrinal watchdog in its decision to insist on caution regarding proposals for intercommunion with Protestants.

On a return flight to Rome on Thursday from a day-long ecumenical pilgrimage to Geneva, Francis said he supported the Vatican’s Prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal-elect Luis Ladaria, in requiring a rethink of a draft proposal from the German bishops that would allow for non-Catholics to receive communion under certain conditions.

Last month, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) rejected the German proposal, which was approved by roughly three-quarters of the bishops during a meeting earlier in the spring. In a letter published this month, Ladaria said the proposal was “not mature enough to be published.”

Francis said that Ladaria did not act unilaterally, but with the pope’s permission, and that under the Code of Cannon Law it is up to the local bishop to decide under what conditions communion can be administered to non-Catholics, not local bishops’ conferences.

“The code says that the bishop of the particular church, and that’s an important word, ‘particular,’ meaning of a diocese, is responsible for this… it’s in his hands.”

Moreover, Francis said, the problem with having an entire bishops’ conference deal with such questions is that “something worked out in an episcopal conference quickly becomes universal.”


11. Pope: Not putting brakes on communion for Lutheran spouses. 

By Associated Press, June 21, 2018, 7:11 PM

Pope Francis says the Vatican has “not put the brakes on” the possibility of communion for the Lutheran spouses of Catholics.

On his flight back to Rome after an ecumenical visit to Geneva Thursday, Francis said he wanted to clarify that church law does allow individual bishops to decide the issue for his diocese, but that an entire national bishops’ conference cannot decide for all of Germany’s Catholics.

Recently, Francis told German bishops they couldn’t publish broad guidelines for the entire nation’s faithful. But he clarified Thursday that bishops conference can provide “orientation” so individual bishops can then decide.


12. The folly of fearing nature. 

By Grazie Christie, Dr. Grazie Christie is a Miami radiologist and a policy adviser with The Catholic Association, Angelus, June 21, 2018

These days it seems that nothing is safe — even the prestige granted by the adjective “natural.”  It still works at the grocery store, where it evokes images of pristine farmyards and cattle that are so lovingly tended that they never get sick and need antibiotics.  

But it has become a suspect word when used around neurasthenic topics in our culture, like family structure and reproduction.

To whit, a recent article in the Journal of Pediatrics that criticizes campaigns promoting breastfeeding as “natural.” The authors contend that the use of the word may be ethically problematic and even stigmatizing. 

They are afraid that touting breast milk as nature’s genius infant aliment — complete and balanced nutritionally, warm, clean, abundant and cost-free — will bolster dangerously old-fashioned ideas about mothers, fathers and biologically determined families.

They are right to fear these campaigns that reinforce sex roles. If natural breast milk is better for babies than formula, then the classic family scenario that produces it may also be best: tired but happy mother imparting nature’s bounty day and night, proud father making it all possible with his protective care.

To those who are working hard to create a new world order, lifting up the naturally occurring family stigmatizes all the other arrangements made possible by the erasure of sex differences and the concept of gender as fluid but also somehow fixed. 

As the authors put it, “Coupling nature with motherhood, however, can inadvertently support biologically deterministic arguments about the roles of men and women in the family.” 

With my first three babies I used baby formula very happily, as it enabled me to go back to medical school and residency after six-week maternity leaves without pumping. I breastfed the fourth to see what it was like, and I gave my fifth, whom we adopted, formula. They are all equally smart and healthy, and beautifully attached.

But rejecting natural men and women, and the natural family, is a bridge too far. It is damaging to individuals who are being “transitioned” into broken facsimiles and damaging to a society that is already suffering terribly from the destruction of the classic family.  

Nature cannot be erased or entirely overcome. Ditto sex differences and biologic imperatives. This is scary to the authors who want a world where everything around sex is fluid, including motherhood. They are fighting a losing battle.