1. DeVos: Religious groups can offer taxpayer-funded help in private schools.

By Moriah Balingit and Morgan Smith, The Washington Post, March 13, 2019, pg. A23

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announced this week she would no longer enforce a rule that bars religious institutions from providing certain taxpayer-funded services in private schools, saying the restriction ran afoul of a recent high-court decision.

School districts will often contract with third parties to provide the services. But the rules barred school districts from contracting with religious institutions in these circumstances.

Sister Dale McDonald, director of public policy for the National Catholic Educational Association, said it meant that school districts could not contract with faculty members at religiously affiliated universities, for example, to provide professional development to private-school teachers, even if the services were secular.


2. Appeals court upholds Ohio law that strips Planned Parenthood of funding.

By Fred Barbash, The Washington Post, March 13, 2019, Pg. A2

A divided federal appeals court upheld an Ohio law Tuesday that strips Planned Parenthood of government funding for a wide variety of health services for women solely because it also provides access to abortion.

Overturning two lower court decisions and bolstered by four new appointees of President Trump, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit, by a vote of 11 to 6, rejected arguments that the 2016 Ohio law imposed unconstitutional conditions on the state’s distribution of federal funds.

The opinion written by Judge Jeffrey Sutton overturned a district-court ruling and a decision by a three-judge appeals court panel holding that the law violated Planned Parenthood’s First Amendment right of advocacy as well as constitutional protections for abortion rights.

The lower courts’ opinions cited Supreme Court precedent against placing unconstitutional conditions on the receipt of federal funds, but the appeals court majority said the law did not impose such conditions because private organizations, such as Planned Parenthood, had no guaranteed right to funds for anything, including to perform or advocate abortion.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R) said in a statement he was “pleased” by the ruling “as he has long believed that the people of Ohio, through its state legislature, have the right to decide what it funds and what it doesn’t fund.”


3. Disgraced cardinal gets six years in prison.

By A. Odysseus Patrick, The Washington Post. March 13, 2019, Pg. A19

Cardinal George Pell was sentenced to six years in prison by an Australian judge Wednesday for sexually assaulting two boys in the 1990s, making him the most senior Catholic official to be imprisoned in the worldwide wave of abuse that has blighted the church for the past several decades.

Pell, who oversaw the Vatican’s finances, is one of the most senior Australian religious figures in history. Since the conviction, a powerful network of allies and supporters has emerged to suggest that he may have been a victim of a miscarriage of justice.


4. More U.S. Catholics are considering leaving the church over the sex abuse crisis, poll says.

By Michelle Boorstein and Sarah Pulliam Bailey, Washington Post Online, March 13, 2019

The percent of U.S. Catholics who say the clergy sex abuse crisis has them questioning whether to leave the faith has jumped 15 points since the last major crisis in the early 2000s, a poll released Wednesday finds.

A December Gallup poll looking at views of “honesty and ethical standards” in different fields found that a record-low 31 percent of U.S. Catholics ranked clergy as having “high or very high” standards. That was down from 63 percent a decade ago and represented a drop of 18 percentage points from 2017.

During that same period, the percent of U.S. Protestants who gave high or very high rankings for the ethics of their clergy dropped from 61 percent to 48 percent in the past decade, Gallup found.
Yet polling on something as complex as switching religious identity has shown widely varying results.

One area of vulnerability for the U.S. Catholic Church is growth. While a 2014 Pew Research Center survey said 59 percent of people raised Catholic remain of a Catholic identity — a retention rate similar to other major traditions — the church stands out for its dearth of new members. Thirteen percent of Americans are former Catholics, while 2 percent have become Catholic. The large-scale survey found a 6.5-to-1 ratio of people leaving Catholicism to joining it.

There isn’t much new data, but most people who left Catholicism don’t say sex abuse scandals were a factor — a 2008 survey (also by Pew) found fewer than 3 in 10 former Catholics say the clergy sexual abuse scandal factored into their decision to leave. Fewer than 1 in 20 volunteered the issue as a primary reason they left.


5. Many U.S. Catholics Question Their Membership Amid Scandal.

By Jeffrey M. Jones, Gallup, March 13, 2019

Story Highlights
– More Catholics questioning their membership than in 2002
– Nonpracticing Catholics most likely to reconsider their religion
– 59% confident in the priests at their church; 58% confident in Pope Francis

As the Catholic church responds to more allegations of sexual abuse of young people by priests, an increasing percentage of Catholics are re-examining their commitment to the religion. Thirty-seven percent of U.S. Catholics, up from 22% in 2002, say news of the abuse has led them to question whether they would remain in the church.

These results are based on interviews with 581 U.S. Catholics who participated in Gallup polls Jan. 21-27 and Feb. 12-28. While the polling was being conducted, Pope Francis met with Catholic leaders from around the world at the Vatican to respond to a new wave of sex abuse allegations in numerous countries. The church dealt with a similar crisis in the U.S. in 2002, the last time Gallup polled about this.

U.S. Catholics are still mostly confident in Pope Francis, but it could be argued that the 58% expressing confidence in him is somewhat weak given his role as leader of the Catholic church.

While it is uncertain how many of the 37% of U.S. Catholics who say they’re questioning remaining in the church will actually leave in response to the latest sex abuse scandal, any loss of adherents is certainly not welcome news — especially when the church is dealing with larger societal trends moving away from formal religion. A decline in the number of Catholics would seem especially problematic if it were driven by practical matters such as how church leaders responded to a scandal rather than fundamental spiritual matters such as disagreement with church teachings or church members finding their faith to be unfulfilling.

Catholics shaken by the latest scandal could be affected in other ways besides leaving the church, including less frequent church attendance and being less willing to listen to church leaders’ teachings on matters of faith.


6. Cardinal Receives Six Years In Prison for Child Sex Abuse.

By Robb M. Stewart, The Wall Street Journal, March 13, 2019, Pg. A7

Cardinal George Pell, the Vatican’s former finance chief, was sentenced to six years in prison Wednesday for sexually abusing two choirboys inside a Melbourne cathedral in the 1990s.

Cardinal Pell is the most senior Vatican official ever to stand trial on child sex-abuse charges, and the sentence imposed by County Court Chief Judge Peter Kidd will see him eligible to seek parole after three years and eight months. In a hearing that lasted about an hour and was broadcast live, Judge Kidd said the sen- tence took into account the severity of the crimes and the brazen nature of the attacks, but was mitigated by the cardinal’s advanced age, poor health and otherwise good character.


7. More Catholics Considering Abandoning the Church, Thirty-seven percent said they were questioning this year whether to remain part of the church, up from 22% in 2002.

By Ian Lovett, Wall Street Journal Online, March 13, 2019, 4:00 AM

More than a third of U.S. Catholics say the sexual abuse crisis rocking the Catholic Church has made them consider leaving the church, significantly more than when the last major scandal erupted, according to new research conducted by Gallup.

The study found that 37% of U.S. Catholics said the abuse crisis had led them to question whether to remain part of the church. That number is up from 22% of Catholics who said the same in 2002, when the Vatican last dealt with a major sexual abuse scandal.

Catholics who seldom or never attend church were most likely to question whether they should leave entirely

After the Boston Globe did a series on the sexual abuse by Catholic priests and the church’s efforts to cover it up in 2002, “the average lay Catholic was able to accept that there were many bad apples and the church was going to need to clean them up,” said Chad Pecknold, a professor at the Catholic University of America. The revelations last year “deepened the original sense of betrayal” among the faithful, he said, because bishops’ involvement in covering up the abuse became clear.

“It’s understandable that for people whose faith is weak, this is just enough to push them out,” Mr. Pecknold said.


8. Two Bishops Accused of Sexually Harassing Adults Are Barred From Priestly Duties.

By Liam Stack, The New York Times, March 13, 2019, Pg. A13

The archdiocese of Baltimore said on Monday that it had barred two bishops from performing priestly duties and referred their cases to the Vatican after an internal investigation into allegations that they had sexually harassed adults, including one claim that was dismissed by church investigators a decade ago.

One of the men referred to the Vatican, Bishop Michael J. Bransfield, served as the highest-ranking Catholic official in West Virginia until he retired in September. While the investigation into him focused on adults, he was implicated in the sexual abuse of children by a witness in a 2012 trial, according to news media coverage of the trial. He has long denied that claim.

The second man who was barred, Bishop Gordon Bennett, served as an auxiliary bishop in Baltimore from 1998 to 2004, when he was appointed bishop of Mandeville, Jamaica. The archdiocese said it received an allegation that he had sexually harassed a “young adult” in Jamaica in May 2006 and reported it to the Vatican embassy in Washington.

Bishop Bennett, a Jesuit, resigned from his post in Jamaica in August of that year. But church investigators cleared him of the allegation in 2009 and the Congregation for Bishops, in Rome, reinstated him to “limited episcopal ministry subject to oversight,” according to a statement from the Jesuits West Province.


9. Camps for Muslims in China Likened to ‘Boarding Schools’.

By Chris Buckley and Amy Qin, The New York Times, March 13, 2019, Pg. A4

A senior official from China’s far west said on Tuesday that the internment camps for Muslim minorities there were like boarding schools and that their numbers of inmates would shrink, as the government pushed back against international criticism of the mass detentions.

China’s sweeping confinement of Uighurs and other Muslim minorities in the Xinjiang region has drawn condemnation from foreign governments and international bodies, including in recent weeks. A United States envoy called it part of a “war with faith.” Turkey, once quiet about the detentions, has become critical. The United Nations high commissioner for human rights recently demanded answers.

Michelle Bachelet, the United Nations high commissioner for human rights, said she wanted independent access to investigate reports of “enforced disappearances and arbitrary detentions,” especially in Xinjiang.

Sam Brownback, the United States’ ambassador at large for international religious freedom, has been much blunter. “We need to call these camps what they are; they’re internment camps created to wipe out the cultural and religious identity of minority communities,” Mr. Brownback told journalists in Hong Kong last week.


10. Oppression in its barest form, Abortion is the social justice issue of the millennial generation.

By Charlotte Pence, The Washington Times, March 13, 2019, Pg. B1, Opinion

Social justice is a driving force in our millennial generation, defined as “a state or doctrine of egalitarianism,” and our attention to its perpetuation comes across in more than just policy engagement. It is a major factor in the decisions we make — how we shop, what we eat and the causes we promote.

Millennials are increasingly creative in the ways we support certain agendas, and feel a responsibility to interact with society in a healthy way that brings equality to all instead of a select few.

By celebrating abortion, we aren’t just depriving the unborn child of life, but harming her would-be friends, his would-be brothers and future spouse. We eliminate the possibility of rich relationships and contributions that might advance and improve disenfranchised communities.

Abortion is also a women’s issue, but not in the way in which the progressive left has used it. The pro-choice message tells a woman the way in which she should live. The narrative is not one of empowerment and self-sufficiency; it is of fear.

The unborn — and others affected by abortion — are the marginalized members of our society, whose voices we are not hearing because their future has been decided for them.

We have taken away their ownership and agency by limiting their ability to fulfill their potential.

In doing this, we provide oppression with a strong foundation to take root in our midst — a foothold that history has shown is not easily broken.

Charlotte Pence, the daughter of Vice President Mike Pence, attends Harvard Divinity School. She is the author of “Where You Go: Life Lessons from My Father” (Center Street, 2018).


11. Few abuse scandals involve Francis as directly as that of Argentine bishop.

By Inés San Martín, Crux, March 13, 2019

Though Pope Francis has faced questions and even criticism for his overall handling of the clerical sexual abuse scandals in Catholicism, few cases touch the pontiff quite as directly as that of Argentine Bishop Gustavo Zanchetta, who was brought to Rome at the pope’s personal initiative and who now stands accused of abuse.

Appointed by Francis to the northern Argentine diocese of Oran, when the bishop resigned at the age of 53 in 2017 he said the move was for “health reasons.” A few months later, Francis named him Assessor to the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See (APSA), which administers the Vatican’s financial portfolio.

Last year, it became public that Zanchetta has been accused both of sexual misconduct and of financial wrongdoing, although a Vatican spokesman insisted there were no abuse allegations at the time Zanchetta was brought to Rome.

Clearly, the pope hasn’t yet thrown in the towel on Zanchetta; the Catholic Herald reported Monday that the Argentine prelate is taking part this week in a spiritual retreat for members of the Roman Curia along with Francis and senior Vatican officials.


12. The Holy See and Cardinal Pell.

By George Weigel, First Things, March 13, 2019

Cardinal George Pell’s December 2018 conviction on charges of “historic sexual abuse” was a travesty of justice, thanks in part to a public atmosphere of hysterical anti-Catholicism—a fetid climate that had a devastating impact on the possibility of his receiving a fair trial. How else does one explain how 12 jurors, presented with uncorroborated charges refuted by overwhelming evidence that the alleged crimes could not have happened, completely reversed the overwhelming pro-acquittal vote delivered by a hung jury in the cardinal’s first trial last year?

Cardinal Pell knew from hard personal experience how virulent the anti-Catholic atmosphere in Australia had become. As a member of the College of Cardinals and a senior Vatican official, Pell enjoyed Vatican citizenship and held a Vatican diplomatic passport; he could have stayed put, untouchable by the Australian authorities. Yet he freely decided to submit himself to his country’s criminal justice system. He knew he was innocent; he was determined to defend his honor and that of the Church; and he believed in the rectitude of the Australian courts. So he went home. 

Shortly after Mr. Gisotti’s comment, it was announced that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith was beginning its own canonical inquiry into the Pell case. In theory, and one hopes in practice, the CDF investigation can be helpful: properly conducted, it will exonerate Cardinal Pell of the preposterous charges on which he was convicted, because there is zero evidence that the cardinal abused two choirboys and ample evidence that the abuse could not have occurred in the circumstances in which it allegedly happened. So justice can be done by the Holy See, whatever the ultimate outcome in Australia. 

For the sake of an old friend, but also for the sake of Australia’s reputation in the world, I hope that the appeal process, which begins in early June, will vindicate Cardinal Pell—and the faith he has put in his countrymen and the Australian judicial system. The latter is and should be under the closest scrutiny by fair-minded people, however. The Holy See should take note of that, and should therefore resist any further temptations to render a gauzy, and certainly premature, verdict on “the Australian judicial authorities.”


13. The Right’s Lena Dunham Fallacy, Why do conservatives keep blaming liberal millennials for social decay?

By Timothy P. Carney, New York Times Online, March 12, 2019, Opinion
Mr. Carney is the author of the forthcoming book “Alienated America: Why Some Places Thrive While Others Collapse.”

Family and community are eroding in America — drug deaths and suicide are way up, marriage and two-parent households are way down. It is a widespread and complicated crisis, yet some conservatives have a simple, single target for blame: liberal elites.

My fellow conservatives, who rightly lament America’s turn away from marriage and the dropping birthrate, need to ask why “real America,” including the most dedicated parts of Donald Trump’s base, is seeing the intact family crumble.

College-educated women and non-college women used to marry at the same rate. Back in 1960, about 85 percent of both groups were married at age 40. Today, it is about 65 percent of college-educated women and below 50 percent for women who never went to college.

What’s behind this erosion of the traditional family among the working class? A purely economic account is inadequate.

At the same time, places like Utah and Western Michigan had consistently strong marriage rates, despite being far from the elite coastal cities.

What do Utah and, say, Northern Virginia have in common? Certainly not politics or income levels. Rather, they both have robust community institutions, whether they be sports leagues, strong public schools or vibrant churches.

This is an opportunity for some rare left-right agreement that the way to promote marriage and family is to build a social infrastructure in which family formation can thrive. What can be done to get parents involved in their local schools? How can we physically build communities that draw people together rather than isolate them?

Marriage is hard. Raising kids is harder. These undertakings become more feasible only when they are supported by a very local, very human network of institutions such as strong community schools, churches, sports leagues and tight-knit neighborhoods. You could say that to foster marriage and child-rearing, it really does take a village.


14. Neomi Rao and Respect for Human Dignity.

By Andrea Picciotti-Bayer, TownHall, March 12, 2019, 12:01 AM
Andrea Picciotti-Bayer is Legal Advisor for The Catholic Association Foundation. Her legal career has been dedicated to civil rights advocacy.

There are many reasons the Senate should confirm Neomi Rao to the Court of Appeals for D.C. Circuit seat left vacant by Brett Kavanaugh’s elevation to the Supreme Court. She may very well be the cream of President Trump’s excellent crop of nominees to the federal judiciary. But it is her impressive scholarly writing on “dignity” that make her nomination timely – and especially worthy of quick Senate confirmation. 

Rao’s not talking about “dignity” in the everyday sense of the term (one’s manner of being).  What Rao has written about is the judicial or constitutional concept of dignity.  That is,the type of respect a person can demand from others and from the state.

Rao’s knowledge of U.S. constitutional law and her concern that federal courts decide cases with absolute commitment to the rule of law are on impressive display in her 2011 Notre Dame law Review article, “Three Concepts of Dignity in Constitutional Law.”  Over almost 100 pages of meticulously cited legal scholarship, Rao marshals political theory and philosophy to identify the differing concepts of “dignity” used by courts.  “[T]he meaning of dignity matters, because it is an interpretive principle used to understand rights and liberties,” Rao explains. “Separating out and explaining the various meanings of dignity reveal their fundamental differences and should provide greater transparency about what courts are doing when they invoke dignity.”

It important then that senators roll up their sleeves and take up their “advise and consent” responsibility on Rao’s nomination. This should not be difficult. Neomi Rao will add even more dignity to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.