1. A blow against birth control: A draft regulation would ease denials of contraception coverage

By The Washington Post, June 8, 2017, Pg. A20, Editorial

The draft of a proposed regulation, dated May 23 and obtained last week by Vox, would dramatically overhaul the government’s contraception coverage mandate. It would, if finalized, expand the exemption that currently applies to religious organizations and private employers with religious scruples to any employers or insurers expressing “religious beliefs and moral convictions” against birth control. No formal notification to the federal government would be required. “Moral” is not defined. And even forprofit, publicly traded companies would be able to lay claim to moral convictions.

The repeal and replacement of Obamacare has stalled in Congress, but this proposed regulation, which could go into effect as soon as it is published in the Federal Register, sadly demonstrates the harm that can be done if the executive branch sets its mind — and authority — to dismantling key provisions.


2. Venezuela cardinal says Socialist regime leaves people ‘cruelly repressed

By Inés San Martín, Crux, June 8, 2017

One of Venezuela’s cardinals promised to give Pope Francis  “a very direct, crude, realistic view of the situation we are going through” in a meeting with the pontiff today, saying the country’s socialist government has left its people “cruelly repressed.”

Cardinal Jorge Urosa Savino, Archbishop of Caracas, the country’s capital, spoke to Crux in advance of a special meeting of the leadership of Venezuela’s bishops’ conference with Francis. The Argentine pontiff has been an outspoken supporter of dialogue to end the crisis, and the Vatican’s position on the matter is clear: Elections need to happen.

Despite attempts made by Maduro to convince his country of the opposite, Urosa believes that the bishops and the pope are very much aligned, calling for dialogue and a solution to the current crisis, “which the government has caused.”

Those solutions, as Italian Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican’s Secretary of State and former papal representative in Venezuela told Crux and La Nación in May, include calling for national elections.

Though he too wants elections to be held, Urosa puts it in somewhat different words: “The solution is that the government solves the problems it has caused, and does not insist on wanting to impose a socialist, communist, Marxist, totalitarian and militaristic system as a regime of government.”


3. House Passes Bill That Would Fund Christian Relief Efforts for ISIS Genocide Victims

By Samuel Smith, The Christian Post, June 7, 2017, 5:29 PM

The Iraq and Syria Genocide Emergency Relief and Accountability Act, which was introduced by Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., and Anna Eshoo, D-Calif., in January, would authorize the Department of Defense and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to provide support to organizations, groups and entities, including faith-based ones, that are assisting religious minority groups who were forced to flee from their homes because of the rise of the Islamic State three years ago.

It would also authorize federal support for entities that are conducting criminal investigations on militants who have engaged in genocidal efforts, crimes against humanity and war crimes in Iraq and Syria. The bill seeks to order the State Department to encourage foreign governments to identify and prosecute perpetrators of such crimes.

Additionally, the bill would order the attorney general and secretary of state to review U.S. criminal statutes on genocide to determine the extent U.S. courts are currently authorized to exercise jurisdiction over crimes where the direct perpetrators, accomplices, or victims are United States nationals and whether additional statutory authorities are needed to be able to prosecute a U.S. person or a foreign person within the U.S. for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The bill comes after former Sec. of State John Kerry declared last year that the Islamic State was committing genocide against Yazidis, Christians and other religious minorities in Iraq. Hundreds of thousands of Christians have fled from their homes in northern Iraq and are now displaced in the Kurdistan region of Iraq or in neighboring countries.

“The Christian and Yazidi survivors of the ongoing genocide in Iraq and Syria have been crying out for help since the Islamic State’s barbarity was unleashed upon them, yet none of the U.S. humanitarian aid has reached them,” Maureen Ferguson, senior policy adviser with The Catholic Association, said in a statement. “This crucial bill would hold perpetrators of violence accountable and partner U.S. aid with organizations like the Knights of Columbus and Aid to the Church in Need, who have been on the ground providing basic sustenance for Christian, Yazidi, and Muslim refugees.”


4. Unprecedented Gathering of US Church Will Discuss Evangelization

By Peter Jesserer Smith, National Catholic Register, June 7, 2017

The Catholic bishops in the United States want to form a Church of missionary disciples on fire to spread the joy of the Gospel to their communities.

For that purpose, they are convening the “Convocation of Catholic Leaders: The Joy of the Gospel in America.”

To be held July 1-4 in Orlando, Florida, it will be a gathering of thousands of Catholic leaders working in dioceses, apostolates and movements across the country.

This appears to be the first national-scale response anywhere to Pope Francis’ 2013 apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel), where he asked the faithful “to embark upon a new chapter of evangelization marked by this joy.”

Having the U.S. bishops bring together Catholic leaders from all U.S. states and territories into a single meeting place to discuss evangelization has no precedent in the life of the Catholic Church in the United States.

The convocation is by invitation only. All the U.S. Catholic bishops have chosen Catholic leaders for their diocesan delegations.

Approximately 160 out of 197 dioceses, eparchies and ordinariates are sending delegations, with an average of 10 delegates accompanying their bishop. The Archdiocese of Cincinnati is sending the most delegates, 52 persons, while the eight delegates for the Romanian Catholic Eparchy of St. George’s in Canton, Ohio, represent the greatest ratio of delegates proportional to flock size. With its 6,200 Catholics, that’s one delegate for every 775 Catholics.

The USCCB also disbursed more than $500,000 in scholarships to make sure the personal and geographic diversity of the Church, along with insights and contributions, was represented, including African-American and Native-American Catholics, low-income attendees and “Catholic Home Missions” dioceses.

Some attendees are coming from as far away as the Marshall Islands in the Pacific.

The USCCB has also invited more than 160 Catholic organizations, covering a wide variety of Catholic-led ministries, apostolates and movements, dedicated to advancing the mission of the Church, Reyes said.