1. Vatican Blocks German Plan to Expand Communion, Pope blocks a proposal by German bishops to expand the ranks of Protestants who may receive Communion, a setback for progressives. 

By Francis X. Rocca, The Wall Street Journal, June 4, 2018, 8:58 AM

Pope Francis blocked a plan by German Catholic bishops to expand the ranks of Protestants who may receive Communion in Catholic churches, in a setback for progressives despite the pope’s apparent openness to the move as recently as last month.

The decision indicates that the pope, who has allowed bishops around the world to take divergent approaches on such matters as how to translate the Mass and when to let divorced Catholics in second marriages receive Communion, recognizes doctrinal impediments to such decentralization.

The pope’s decision came in a letter dated May 25 from Archbishop Luis Ladaria, head of the Vatican’s doctrinal office, to Cardinal Reinhard Marx, president of the German bishops’ conference. The letter, which the Vatican confirmed as authentic, was first published by the Italian journalist Sandro Magister of L’Espresso magazine.

Archbishop Ladaria, who the pope will elevate to the rank of cardinal later this month, specified that he was writing with the “explicit consent of the pope,” following two private discussions with him last month.

The archbishop wrote that Vatican officials had been assigned to prepare a “timely clarification” of church law relevant to Communion for Protestants. He didn’t specify when that document, which will likely constitute a more definitive statement, would appear.

The controversy began when the German bishops’ conference voted in February to publish guidelines allowing Protestant spouses of Catholics to receive Communion from a Catholic priest or designated minister “in certain cases.”


2. Judge: ‘In God We Trust’ on money isn’t religion endorsement. 

By Associated Press, June 4, 2018, 7:55 AM

A federal court has ruled that printing “In God We Trust” on U.S. currency doesn’t amount to a religious endorsement and therefore doesn’t violate the U.S. Constitution.

The Chicago Daily Law Bulletin reports the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago made the ruling Thursday in a lawsuit brought by a self-declared Satanist, Kenneth Mayle. He argued that the motto propagates a religious view he opposes.


3. How to Apologize (Better). 

By Margaret Renkl, Margaret Renkl is a contributing opinion writer, The New York Times, June 4, 2018, Opinion

One of the most useful things Catholic school taught me is the fundamental structure of apology. Whether or not you accept the notion of original sin in its most literal sense — I don’t — it’s impossible not to notice that we’re all born with a powerful inclination for fault and failure. We lie. We treat others unkindly. We nurture wrongheaded notions because they make us feel a little bit better about our imperfect selves. Roman Catholic catechism calls this tendency “the sinful condition,” but here in the 21st century, it’s more usefully known as being born a human being.

We live in the Age of Outrage, a time when any public act of poor judgment is met with public fury.

To be fair, a social media feed or press release is hardly a window to the soul. But among the higher profile cases, there is plenty to suggest that almost no one in public life knows what it means to be truly remorseful. Or at least how to express remorse.

If you are a Catholic of a certain age, you grew up reciting the Act of Contrition every day, and you thereby learned some things about remorse.

A child who learns these words learns that an apology consists of four parts:

1) Genuine remorse (not “I don’t remember it that way” but “I am truly, wholeheartedly sorry.”)

2) The expectation of unpleasant but entirely deserved consequences (not “I wouldn’t have fired me” but “I’m seeking help to confront my racism.”)

3) A resolution not to commit the same error again (not “I’m not as bad as some of these stories suggest” but “I’m much worse than I ever imagined, and I plan to devote the rest of my life to making amends.”)

4) A sincere effort to avoid the circumstances that led to the error in the first place (not “I won’t take Ambien any more” but “I will no longer hang out online with racists.”)

When a person causes egregious offense, the appropriate response isn’t damage control. The appropriate response is a genuine apology — not because you might get your TV show back but because to acknowledge a mistake is to participate fully in the human community.

Even a full-throated apology won’t erase a colossal mistake. We will never make ourselves perfect. But we can try to make ourselves better, and the culture we live in, too.


4. The Contemporary Attack on Motherhood. 

By Father Roger J. Landry, Integrated Catholic Life, June 4, 2018

One of the principal reasons, I think, is because for the last several decades there has been a conceptual war against motherhood and the love that ought to flow so naturally from mothers to children. Most of this damage is being done by a radical feminist ideology that, in claiming to advance the good of women, is actually harming women because it treats motherhood not as a blessing but as a curse. During this week in which we celebrate our mothers and thank them for all their acts of love, big and small, over the years, it’s important for us to note — and resolve to remedy — this cultural trend denigrating not only the importance of their sacrifices but also their maternal nature.

Many radical feminists claim that for woman to become fully alive and free, she needs to be emancipated from the maternal reality of her femininity. Motherhood, for them, must be an optional part of what it means to be a woman. This, however, is the antithesis of any authentic pro-woman feminism. The woman is created with a maternal meaning to her body, a meaning she experiences every monthly cycle. Even if a woman remains celibate, her whole existence remains maternal and is meant to welcome other people and their gifts and nourish them, helping them through love to grow, as so many women religious (and unmarried aunts) have done throughout the centuries, and as adoptive mothers have shown par excellence. To try to separate what it means to be a woman from this maternal significance is, in fact, not feminism at all, but a cruel anti-feminism.

We see the starkest expression of this anti-feminism in the practice of abortion, when a mother — and a pregnant woman is already a mother — rather than welcoming, nourishing and protecting the child growing in her womb, allows trained assassins to terminate that child’s life, often in unimaginably gruesome ways. The anti-feminist ideologues then shamelessly try to convince the woman that such a choice is good. If this corrupted reversal of maternal love is not the work of the father of lies, I don’t know what would ever qualify.

Another anti-maternal practice is contraception. In this year marking the fiftieth anniversary of Pope Blessed Paul VI’s encyclical Humanae Vitae condemning the use of contraception in marriage, it’s important for all Catholics — especially those who might not understand the why behind the what of its teaching — to reexamine its prophetic words as well as ponder more deeply what contraception inevitably does to the understanding of motherhood.

The birth control pill, which treats pregnancy as a sickness and therefore motherhood as something to be medically prevented, is the antithesis of the gift of maternity we celebrated on Sunday. It has facilitated a revolution in the self-understanding of many women, as women sever the maternal meaning of their existence (and not just their bodies) from their femininity, and do so in particular in the very act by which that maternal meaning is most powerfully and naturally expressed. This is a mysogynist anti-feminism marketed falsely as a feminist advance.

That, however, is just the beginning of contraception’s harms. In addition to injuring a woman’s self-understanding, the pill also alters the meaning of sexual relations in a way detrimental to woman. The deepest meaning of sexual relations is a mutual exchange of total self-gifts expressed in body language, something capable of being expressed in truth only in marriage…. Contraceptive sex essentially exalts mutual pleasure — which has always been a divinely-intended fruit of love-making — as the fundamental purpose of sexual relations, instead of love and life. When that occurs, spouses (and non-spouses) cannot but begin to use each other, and each other’s bodies, for pleasure. This behavior will ultimately corrode whatever genuine love there is, because using another as a means to one’s own gratification is the opposite of love, which involves willingly sacrificing oneself and one’s pleasure for the other’s true good.

We need to move beyond the anti-maternal ideology in which the unique value and dignity of motherhood is insufficiently defended, appreciated and advanced, and in which mothers’ often invisible and heroic service is disparaged as an antiquated and unwholesome model of feminine life. The future of humanity is dependent on mothers’ making the choice not just to welcome children but raise them to be virtuous and authentically human, something that in turn hinges on society’s strengthening women for this service. Humanity owes its survival to the choice women make.

Will our culture celebrate those who live by the motto, “My body, my choice,” or rather, those whose lives are a commentary on the words, “This is my body given for you”?

Will we recognize a woman with children as an image of love or pretend that happiness and fulfillment will come rather by rejecting that image?


5. America is finally taking action on international religious freedom. 

By Andrea Picciotti-Bayer, Andrea Picciotti-Bayer is Legal Advisor for The Catholic Association Foundation, The Hill, June 3, 2018, 11:00 AM

Last week the State Department issued its annual report on International Religious Freedom (IRF). The report is a sobering reminder that religious freedom in our world today is under attack and that continued American leadership is crucial.    

The IRF report offers a comprehensive, country-by-country assessment of the state of religious freedom throughout the world. 

Since IFRA’s passage, U.S. advocacy on behalf of international religious freedom has shined a spotlight on bad state actors, alerted the world community, and galvanized concern among lawmakers. But countries bent on oppressing religious communities continue to act with impunity. Fortunately, the current administration is committed to continuing to pressure leaders who tolerate or promote such oppression. Leading the effort is a longtime champion of international religious freedom, Sam Brownback. 

Confirmed in February as ambassador-at-large for International Religious Freedom, Brownback has hit the ground running. At the release of the IRF annual report, Ambassador Brownback remarked that “one person’s bondage is another person’s burden to break.” Consistent with this concern, Brownback personally met with and advocated on behalf of an American evangelical pastor, Andrew Brunson, who has been imprisoned in Turkey for over 19 months on bogus charges of terrorism and espionage. Brownback’s pledge of “very high-level U.S. government interest” until Brunson is released was echoedby President Trump this past weekend.

In addition to advocating for a persecuted fellow American, Brownback understands that concern and compassion for those suffering religious persecution must be shown to other victims across the globe as well. During a recent trip to Bangladesh, for example, Ambassador Brownback spoke with Rohingya victims of ethnic cleansing in Myanmar. 

At the release of the IRF annual report, Secretary of State Pompeo announced that the State Department will host the first-ever meeting of its kind to advance religious freedom later this summer. The hope is to bring together officials from like-minded governments and representatives from international organizations, religious communities, and civil society to reaffirm the commitment to religious freedom as a universal human right. According to Pompeo, “It will not just be a discussion group.  It will be about action.” 

Effective international action to stop religious persecution and discrimination requires active U.S. leadership. The administration’s continued strong commitment is welcome news to oppressed people around the world.  


6. Nicaraguan Cardinal emeritus Miguel Obando dies at 92.

By Luis Manuel Galeano, Associated Press, June 3, 2018, 7:06 PM

Cardinal emeritus Miguel Obando y Bravo, who clashed with Nicaragua’s Sandinista leaders and later reconciled with them, died Sunday at age 92, the country’s Roman Catholic Church announced.

Obando y Bravo, a Salesian father, served as archbishop of Managua for 37 years before retiring in 2005. He also played an important mediator role throughout Nicaragua’s recent, violent political history.

The cardinal was most famous for his clashes with the leftist Sandinista government of the 1980s, sharply confronting its alliance with a “people’s church,” a Marxist-inspired version of Catholicism that outraged the Vatican and especially Pope John Paul II.


7. Pope encourages mobster-plagued town to take law’s side. 

By Associated Press, June 3, 2018, 2:07 PM

Pope Francis is urging residents of a mobster-plagued Rome suburb to be courageous and side with the law.

Francis celebrated an outdoor Mass on Sunday evening in Ostia, a seaside town. In his homily, he encouraged people to “knock down” the walls of social codes — known in Italy as “omerta” — that discourage people from denouncing mobsters.

In 2015, Ostia’s municipal administration was put under Italian government control because of infiltration by local crime clans. Authorities have accused them of slayings, extortion, drug-trafficking and loan-sharking in Ostia.

The pope also decried abuse of power and arrogance, saying people must embrace “justice, decorum and lawfulness.”


8. Pope decries deadly repression against Nicaraguan protesters. 

By Associated Press, June 3, 2018, 7:18 AM

Pope Francis has expressed sorrow over the deadly violence used to repress social protests in Nicaragua.

Francis told thousands of pilgrims and others gathered in St. Peter’s Square on Sunday that he was praying for the victims and families in Nicaragua.

He renewed his call for dialogue, stressing that “an active commitment to respect freedom and above all life is required” for that to happen.

More than 110 people have been killed since mid-April in clashes between loyalists to Daniel Ortega, Nicaragua’s president since 2007, and opposition groups.


9. The Catholic School Difference, A new study shows the benefit of demanding student self-discipline. 

By The Wall Street Journal, June 2, 2018, Pg. A14, Review & Outlook

For the thousands of nuns who have served as principals at Catholic schools, their emphasis on self-discipline must seem like common sense. But a new academic study confirms the sisters are on to something: You can instill self-discipline in students, a virtue that will help them in their studies and later in life.

The study was conducted for the Thomas B. Fordham Institute by University of California-Santa Barbara associate professor Michael Gottfried and doctoral student Jacob Kirksey. The authors analyzed two waves of national data on elementary school students collected under the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study for the National Center for Education Statistics. They compared children in Catholic schools with those in public schools and other private schools, religious and secular.

The authors found statistically meaningful evidence that students in Catholic schools exhibited less disruptive behavior than their counterparts in other schools.

We also know that, especially in urban areas, black and Latino students who attend Catholic schools show higher achievement, higher graduation rates and higher college enrollment than those at nearby public schools.

At a time when the different suspension rates between minority and non-minority students has become a toxic debate, the authors offer three key judgments:

First: “Schools that value and focus on self discipline will likely do a better job of fostering it in children.”

Second: “Assuming that these results reflect a ‘Catholic Schools Effect,’ other schools might consider both explicit and implicit methods to replicate it.”

Third: “Don’t underestimate the power of religion to positively influence a child’s behavior.”

Though the authors offer no easy prescriptions, they do say it is a “tragedy for the nation” that so many Catholic schools continue to close when they are most needed. Their lessons are worth preserving.


10. Pope digs deeper into roots of Chile sex abuse scandal. 

By Nicole Winfield, Associated Press, June 2, 2018, 5:42 PM

Pope Francis dug deeper into the roots of Chile’s sex abuse scandal by meeting Saturday with a group of priests who were trained in a cult-like Catholic community and suffered psychological and sexual abuse there.

Francis celebrated Mass with priests trained by the Rev. Fernando Karadima, a powerful preacher in Chile who was sentenced by the Vatican in 2011 to a lifetime of penance and prayer for having sexually and spiritually abused young parishioners through an abuse of power.

The Vatican said the Mass and subsequent weekend meetings would help Francis better understand life inside Karadima’s El Bosque community, which catered to the rich and powerful of Santiago society during and after the Pinochet dictatorship.

A Vatican statement said Francis hopes to help heal the divisions that the El Bosque scandal has created in Chile’s church and help rebuild healthy relationships between priests and their flock “once they become conscious of their own wounds.”


11. An unfair First Amendment restriction by Metro.

By Ashley McGuire and Andrea Picciotti-Bayer, Ashley McGuire is a senior fellow with the Catholic Association and the author of “Sex Scandal: The Drive to Abolish Male and Female.” Andrea Picciotti-Bayer is legal adviser for the Catholic Association Foundation, The Washington Post, June 1, 2018, Opinion

If you live or work in the Washington, at one point or another, you’ve no doubt found yourself behind, next to or on a bus, staring at some giant advertisement for the latest gadget or the newest Netflix series. At some point in time, you probably also saw giant Advent or Lenten advertisements from the Archdiocese of Washington, but that was before the Washington Metropolitan Area Transport Authority unilaterally rejected those ads, summarily banning them from all buses and Metro cars.

The archdiocese returned to court to fight for the right to place its banned ads. WMATA rejected the archdiocese’s annual “Find the Perfect Gift” advent campaign because it was “religious” in nature. The ad depicts three shepherds walking alongside their sheep beneath a starry night sky and a website that includes local Mass times and information for directing one’s charitable giving of time and money.

WMATA had no problem, however, with ads depicting a more “for-profit,” if you will, take on the Christmas holiday. The archdiocese’s opening brief to the court of appeals observes:  “WMATA does not deny, because it cannot deny, that it would allow advertising a mall’s opening hours, but not mass times; permit advertising a new yoga studio, but not a new parish hall; and run advertisements imploring shoppers to find the perfect gift at Macys.com, but not at findtheperfectgift.org.”  The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty was a bit more direct, writing in its friend-of-the-court brief of the flat-out ban on religious messages:  “WMATA’s candor is commendable, but its policy is unconstitutional.”

The archdiocese sued and lost in court in early December. Just a few days before Christmas, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals denied the archdiocese’s request for an emergency injunction pending appeal. As a result of these court decisions, the Lenten “The Light is On for You” ad campaign, an invitation to come to confession, was banned as well.

Representing the litigants were two former solicitor generals: Paul Clement (solicitor general during George W. Bush’s presidency) represents the archdiocese, and Don Verrilli (solicitor general in the Obama administration) represents WMATA.

Banishing all ads with a religious significance from WMATA buses undermines the strength of American religious pluralism and, more important for the appeals court deciding this case, is patently unconstitutional.

Let’s hope in this round of titans clashing, religious freedom wins again.