1. Donations surge at Catholic Charities border asylum-seeker center. 

By Manuel Valdes, Associated Press, June 25, 2018

One by one, around Father’s Day, the surge of Amazon boxes containing shirts, pants, underwear and many other items began arriving at an asylum-seeker rest center in the border town of McAllen, Texas.

Now, the immigrant respite center run by Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley has received so many boxes that it had to rent additional storage space.

On a typical day, more than 100 asylum-seekers are released from McAllen-area holding facilities, clutching their belongings in clear plastic bags stamped with Department of Homeland Security logos, said Sister Norma Pimentel, executive director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley.

Now, Pimental is trying to channel some of the help into cash donations so they can construct a new building by their church. The rest center currently rents its space.

The center also needs more volunteers to keep up with the flow of people and donations, and it needs additional medicine for babies. Montelongo said the center has seen several babies arriving sick.


2. Pope Francis: It’s time to rediscover amazement, surprise, gratitude. 

By Catholic News Agency, June 25, 2018

Pope Francis has said Christians should model the amazement, surprise and gratitude of Elizabeth and Zechariah – and their community – at the birth of their son, John.

“The whole event of the birth of John the Baptist is surrounded by a joyful sense of amazement, surprise and gratitude,” the pope said in his weekly Angelus address in Rome.

“Looking at this, let us ask ourselves: How is my faith? Is it a joyful faith, or is it always the same faith, a ‘flat’ faith? Do I have a sense of amazement when I see the works of the Lord?

Francis then reflected on the miracle of life. He said married couples act as collaborators of God when they have children; and every child has an imprint of God.

“[It is] a truly sublime mission that makes every family a sanctuary of life and awakens – at every birth of a child – joy amazement and gratitude.”

He also said the story of Elizabeth and Zechariah illustrates God is beyond our imagination.

“God does not depend on our logic and our limited human capacity,” the pope said.


3. #MeToo Comes for the Archbishop. 

By Ross Douthat, Columnist, The New York Times, June 24, 2018, Pg. SR11, Opinion

The first time I ever heard the truth about Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, the former archbishop of Washington, D.C., finally exposed as a sexual predatoryears into his retirement, I thought I was listening to a paranoiac rant.

That was before I realized that if you wanted the truth about corruption in the Catholic Church, you had to listen to the extreme-seeming types, traditionalists and radicals, because they were the only ones sufficiently alienated from the institution to actually dig into its rot. (This lesson has application well beyond Catholicism.)

Now the question is whether the at-long-last coverage of McCarrick’s sins will shake similar stories loose. With the exposure of systemic abuse in so many different institutions lately, it’s become possible for Catholics to regard this as a general purgation that our church just went through first. But the grim truth is that the Catholic purgation was incomplete, because it was not quite #MeToo enough. We learned awful things beyond counting, about child abuse by priests and cover-ups by bishops. But we only found out about a few Weinsteins of the church — high-ranking clerics who used the power of their offices to effectively force sex upon men to whom they were supposed to be spiritual fathers. And while I don’t know about others in quite the way I knew about Cardinal McCarrick, everyone with inside knowledge knows that there are many more like him.

The first thing is the truth. And the way out of purgatory is through.


4. Suicides Are Up. Is This an Existential Crisis? 

By Clay Routledge, Clay Routledge is a professor of psychology at North Dakota State University and the author of “Supernatural: Death, Meaning, and the Power of the Invisible World.”, The New York Times, June 24, 2018, Pg. SR9, Opinion

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently released startling new statistics on the rise of deaths by suicide in the United States, which are up 25 percent since 1999 across most ethnic and age groups. These numbers clearly point to a crisis — but of what kind?

As a behavioral scientist who studies basic psychological needs, including the need for meaning, I am convinced that our nation’s suicide crisis is in part a crisis of meaninglessness. Fully addressing it will require an understanding of how recent changes in American society — changes in the direction of greater detachment and a weaker sense of belonging — are increasing the risk of existential despair.

All of which brings us to the changing social landscape of America. To bemoan the decline of neighborliness, the shrinking of the family and the diminishing role of religion may sound like the complaining of a crotchety old man. Yet from the standpoint of psychological science, these changes, regardless of what you otherwise think about them, pose serious threats to a life of meaning.

As for religion, which has long provided the institutional and social scaffolding for a life of meaning, it, too, is in steep decline. Americans these days, especially young adults, are less likely to identify with a religious faith, attend church or engage in other religious practices. But as my research has shown, the sense of meaningfulness provided by religion is not so easily replicated in nonreligious settings: When Americans abandon traditional houses of worship, they increasingly search for alternative religious-like experiences (including those involving ideas about ghosts or space aliens) in order to feel as if they are part of something larger and more meaningful than their brief mortal lives.


5. Sometimes, a pope just can’t help being the pope. 

By John L. Allen Jr., Editor, Crux, June 24, 2018, Opinion

Late this week, news broke of a fairly dramatic papal intervention in an important archdiocese in India. Through the Vatican’s Congregation for Oriental Churches, Pope Francis has essentially decapitated the sitting cardinal there and imposed his own administrator, charging him with getting to the bottom of a mushrooming financial scandal and also dealing with toxic divisions among the clergy.

That flexing of papal muscle is merely the most recent instance in which Francis has reached down and made his presence felt in a local church somewhere in the world.

In other words, we’ve had several clear instances just in recent months in which Francis has all but taken over the judgment of a local church, at least on specific matters, issuing orders and drawing lines in the sand, then insisting on obedience.

The irony here, of course, is that Francis is also the pope who continually preaches the need for a “healthy decentralization” in Catholicism, and who loves to insist that not all questions in the Church need to be answered in Rome.

Given his background in CELAM, the Episcopal Conference of Latin America, it’s unsurprising that Francis continually extols the importance of bishops’ conferences and the local church. As one sign of that commitment, it’s become routine in his documents that a healthy share of his footnotes aren’t just to previous papal teaching but also to texts issued by bishops’ conferences around the world.

So, what gives? It’s not just that Francis has engaged local situations, but in the last few months, he’s seemingly become even more willing to do so.

The only possible conclusion is that sometimes, a pope just can’t help being the pope.

Ultimately, a far-flung community of faith of 1.4 billion people scattered in every nook and cranny of the planet experiences incredibly powerful centrifugal forces. If unity in Catholicism is to be anything other than notional, somebody has to have not only the moral standing but also the authority to hold things together.

Francis clearly has decided that however much he may wish that local churches could figure things out for themselves, there will be times when he just has to act.

Therein, perhaps, lies an important lesson for critics of papal imperialism: Sure, the system may need to be reformed – but if we didn’t have something like a pope, we’d probably have to invent it.


6. Vatican Ex-Diplomat Convicted of Child Pornography Charges, Msgr. Carlo Alberto Capella given five-year prison sentence. 

By Francis X. Rocca, The Wall Street Journal, June 23, 2018, 11:46 AM

A former Vatican diplomat to the U.S. was convicted of possessing and distributing child pornography and sentenced to five years’ imprisonment, in the first such trial for that crime in Vatican City.

The conviction of Msgr. Carlo Alberto Capella came on Saturday, only the second day of his trial, bringing the case to an exceptionally swift end by Vatican standards.

The defendant had admitted to the charges in testimony the previous day, while suggesting that a personal crisis at the time of his actions mitigated his guilt.


7. Pope to make Vatican changes in push for reform, transparency. 

By Philip Pullella, Reuters, June 22, 2018, 9:49 AM

Pope Francis will be making several significant changes in the Vatican in the next few weeks and months to bring in fresh faces with new ideas and promote others as part of his push for reform.

The pope disclosed his decisions in a rare sit-down interview with Reuters at his residence, during which he also spoke of migration, China, freedom of the press, sexual abuse and the role of women in the Church.

During the two-hour interview last Sunday night, Francis said he had decided that the Office of Papal Charities, otherwise known as the pope’s almoner, will henceforth be headed by a cardinal, the highest position in the Church after the pope himself.

Francis also said that before the end of the year he was considering making changes in the group of cardinal advisors from around the world known as the C-9. The group, which meets with him periodically in Rome, began its work five years ago.

Francis also told Reuters he was going to shake things up at APSA, a sort of general accounting office that manages the Vatican’s real estate holdings in Rome and elsewhere in Italy, pays salaries of Vatican employees, and acts as a purchasing office and human resources department.

Francis said he was mostly happy about reforms enacted to make once-scandalous Vatican finances more transparent. The Vatican bank, which closed hundreds of suspicious or dormant accounts, “now works well”, he said.

But he was concerned that “there is no transparency” in the Vatican’s real estate holdings, which are mostly in Italy and many of which were donated over the years. “We have to move ahead with transparency, and that depends on APSA,” he said.


8. Planned Parenthood sues over Trump’s changes to teen pregnancy prevention program.

By Jessie Hellmann, The Hill, June 22, 2018, 10:59 AM

Multiple Planned Parenthood affiliates are suing the Trump administration over changes to a federal grant program geared toward cutting teen pregnancy rates. 

The changes, issued through a funding opportunity announcement (FOA) in April, emphasize abstinence education and programs that have not been rigorously tested.

Planned Parenthood argues in its lawsuit that the FOA goes against congressional intent for the program because it does not require the use of programs that have been “proven effective through rigorous evaluation.”

Previous FOAs issued under the Obama administration required programs be tested and proven to work.