1. Supreme Court to Decide Fate of California’s Pro-Life Pregnancy Centers. 

By Andrea Picciotti-Bayer, Andrea Picciotti-Bayer is Legal Advisor for The Catholic Association Foundation, Real Clear Policy, March 14, 2018

On March 20, the Supreme Court will hear oral argument in NIFLA v. Becerra to decide whether the free speech protections of the First Amendment will keep open the doors of pro-life pregnancy centers in California, despite the efforts of state officials and the abortion industry to close them. 

The law at issue is California’s Reproductive Freedom, Accountability, Comprehensive Care and Transparency Act. The FACT Act, as it is known, was passed by lawmakers claiming that low-income women who face unplanned pregnancies in the state often don’t know that the state offers low-cost or free abortion and so are misled or deceived by pro-life pregnancy centers into giving birth to their children.

There are so many problems with the FACT Act that it is hard to know where to start. Two observations might help put the case in perspective. 

First, California has shown no real evidence of deception on the part of pregnancy centers. 

Second, thousands of women facing unexpected pregnancies want the kind of help pregnancy centers offer. An amicus brief filed in the Supreme Court on behalf of 13 women beneficiaries of pro-life pregnancy centers across the United States highlights this. Many of the amici women suffered abuse, poverty, or addictions and contacted centers because they wanted information, needed resources, or sought counsel for how to face an unexpected pregnancy. None of the women felt pressured or deceived; all of them spoke with gratitude about the centers’ presence in their lives. 

Women facing unexpected pregnancies who walk through the doors of pro-life pregnancy centers are treated in a loving, compassionate manner consistent with their dignity as women and soon-to-be mothers. Pregnancy centers provide childbirth and parenting classes, adoption resources, maternity and infant necessities, emotional support and counsel. Medical services such as pregnancy testing and ultrasounds are also becoming more common, in response to demand from women who want to know more. Unlike the brief experience women encounter at abortion clinics, pregnancy centers offer personalized attention and support that last beyond an initial consultation, often times continuing long after the child is born. And everything is provided free of charge.

The emotional, physical, and financial commitment to bringing forth and sustaining new life is daunting; for many women lacking support, it can even seem impossible. But facing what is difficult is heroic. And sometimes all these heroic women need is the kind of helping hand offered by pregnancy centers. 

The FACT Act, by contrast, does not help these women so much as please the abortion industry by getting rid of the competition.


2. Pope Benedict Protects Pope Francis’ Right Flank: Five years after retiring, former pontiff assures conservatives of continuity under his successor. 

By Francis X. Rocca, The Wall Street Journal, March 14, 2018, Pg. A8

The reign of Pope Francis, which reached its five-year point on Tuesday, has been marked by contrasts in style and substance with that of his predecessor Pope Benedict XVI —most controversially, in the current pope’s more lenient approach to divorce.

But in comments published Monday, retired Pope Benedict played down differences with his successor as a matter of “foolish prejudice,” and insisted on an “interior continuity” between them.

Five years after Pope Benedict’s historic decision to step down, the unprecedented presence of a retired pope in the Vatican has proved an unlikely asset to his more liberal successor. In an institution that prizes tradition, their friendly coexistence is a potent, though mostly silent, assurance of stability for conservatives distressed by recent changes.


3. Lessons From the Rise of America’s Irish: They arrived dirt poor and uneducated in the 1840s. After decades of struggle, they achieved prosperity. 

By Jason L. Riley, Columnist, The Wall Street Journal, March 14, 2018, Pg. A17, Opinion

Every year in the runup to St. Patrick’s Day, the Census Bureau releases a demographic profile of Irish-Americans. For anyone familiar with the arduous history of the Irish in this country, the progress report is an annual reminder of America’s ability to assimilate newcomers in search of a better life.

It was the potato famine that began driving large numbers of Irish to leave home in the late 1840s. This migration, along with mass starvation and disease, would eventually cost Ireland around a third of its population. … Today the number of Americans of Irish descent (32.3 million) is nearly seven times as large as the population of Ireland (4.7 million).

The peasants fleeing Ireland had a shorter life expectancy than slaves in the U.S., many of whom enjoyed healthier diets and better living quarters. … The black scholar W.E.B. Du Bois wrote that freed slaves were poor by American standards, “but not as poor as the Irish peasants.”

In 1847, 19% of the Irish emigrants died on their way to the U.S. or shortly after arriving. By comparison, the average mortality rate on British slave ships of the period was 9%. Slave-owners had an economic incentive to keep slaves alive. No one had such an interest in the Irish.

It wasn’t just a lack of education and urban job skills that slowed the progress of the Irish in America. So did social pathology and discrimination.

Yet none of these obstacles proved insurmountable. … Temperance societies formed to address alcoholism. The Catholic Church took a leading role in tackling poverty, illiteracy and other social problems through the creation of orphanages and hospitals and schools. For millions of Irish immigrants, the church was not simply a place of worship. It was the focal point of the community.

According to the Census Bureau, today’s Irish-Americans boast poverty rates far below the national average and median incomes far exceeding it. The rates at which they graduate from high school, complete college, work in skilled professions, and own homes are also better than average.


4. Looking back at the last five years with Pope Francis. 

By Andrea Picciotti-Bayer, Andrea Picciotti-Bayer is Legal Advisor for The Catholic Association Foundation, The Catholic Association, March 13, 2018

This week marks the 5th anniversary of the pontificate of Pope Francis. He has surprised the Church – and the rest of the world – with his spontaneity and substance. 

Reminiscent of the ever-present Saint Pope John Paul II, who visited a whopping 129 countries over the span of 25 years, Pope Francis has visited 34 countries to date. Francis’ visits have revitalized the Church in many predominantly-Catholic countries plagued by growing secularism….It does reflect the 81-year-old pontiff’s commitment to attend to the Church’s faithful across the four corners of the world – including those on its social peripheries.

Pope Francis has also been present to souls who have not had the privilege of an audience with the Holy Father or the chance to greet him in their home countries. With a Twitter account boasting almost 17 million followers and the Pope video to disseminate his monthly intentions, Francis is a tech-aware spiritual guide to an estimated 1.2 billion Roman Catholics.    

Most compelling during these five years is the echo Pope Francis has given as the Vicar of Christ to two of Jesus’ central teachings – mercy and love.   

Francis’ first Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelil Gaudium, was an impressive novel-length commentary on the Catholic Church’s new evangelization. When presenting the text, Archbishop Fisichella explained: “The cement binding the themes of the exhortation together is the merciful love of God which goes forth to meet every person in order to manifest the heart of his revelation: The life of every person acquires meaning in the encounter with Jesus Christ and in the joy of sharing this experience of love with others.” 

Pope Francis also invited Catholics to be witnesses to the mystery of God’s mercy by declaring 2016 an Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy. 

And the Holy Father has moved the discussion of marriage and the family forward with the publication of his 2016 Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia. … Amoris’ opening sentence profoundly notes, “The joy of Love experienced by families is also the joy of the Church.”

While concerns by members of the Magisterium over the proper understanding of some of the points in Amoris are being assessed, ignoring Amoris altogether withholds needed direction to the faithful during a particularly turbulent time. 

Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the archbishop of Washington, is a leading American prelate offering such attention. … According to the prelate, “The rule to follow in all cases, the Pope makes clear, is the love and mercy of the Lord.” 

Just as the five-year marker of Francis’ pontificate was to be reached, the Holy Father added the memorial of Mary, Mother of the Church to the liturgical calendar. By directing attention to Our Lady’s maternal care over each and every member of the Mystical Body of her Son, the Pope’s catechesis on mercy and love is perfectly entrusted.

Pope Francis has reached Catholics and non-Catholics across the world with his engaging personality and indefatigable care. Drawing attention to Christ’s message of mercy and love has been a wonderful fruit of his papacy so far.   


5. Francis marks 5 years as pope amid love, disenchantment. 

By Nicole Winfield, Associated Press, March 13, 2018, 2:58 PM

Pope Francis marked his fifth anniversary as pope Tuesday by receiving votes of confidence from his predecessor and current Vatican No. 2, even as surveys showed his reform-minded papacy was turning off some of the most faithful, church-going Catholics.

First out of the gate to give him thumbs-up was Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI, whose historic resignation paved the way for Francis’ election on March 13, 2013.

In a letter released on the eve of Francis’ anniversary, Benedict publicly dismissed as “foolish prejudice” the opinions of critics who say Francis has no theological heft and represents a rupture from Benedict’s papacy.

But the debate is taking its toll. A poll published Tuesday in France’s Le Figaro newspaper found a significant drop in the still-high support for Francis among church-going, practicing Catholics. The 86 percent who back him 12 percentage points lower than in 2015.

Francis has come under the most criticism for his handling of clerical sex abuse cases. 

In the streets, the pope remains beloved.


6. The pope’s pathway to happiness. 

By Grazie Pozo Christie, March 13, 2018

The installation of Pope Francis five years ago coincided with the launching of my first two children into “adulthood” — if one can call the bacchanalia of university adulthood. As we sent off our goslings, suddenly grown great geese, my husband and I felt not only bereft but terrified.  

We were sending them into a world with a very low opinion of human nature and its capacity for goodness and courage. For our children to succeed, to be happy, they would have to swim against the tide. 

I could hear Pope Francis exhorting them to do just that in “The Courage to Be Happy: The Pope Speaks to the Youth of the World” (Orbis, $20), a fantastic collection of the pope’s words of encouragement and hope to young people set for release on April 24.

In many messages and speeches for World Youth Days, he has spoken about our relativist and ephemeral culture, and the way it promotes pleasure and self-realization as the highest goods.  

The Holy Father has warned us so affectionately against misunderstanding the nature of true happiness, and the way to achieve it.  

We cooperate with the broken wider culture when we mistake economic success, professional prestige and popularity with happiness, and encourage our children to strive for these. 

Soon we find out that our children can be pleased and exhilarated with their achievements and possessions, but it’s awful when they turn them into idols and become enslaved to them! They simply end up unsatisfied, always wanting more — unhappy.

Even worse than making idols of material possessions and professional success, the culture of the ephemeral encourages young people to avoid unhappiness by running away from responsibility and the self-giving of true love.

For the well-trained youth, there is no mistaking the nature of the hookup culture — the epitome of irresponsibility and mutual usage.  Its clarity makes it easy to resist. But other traps are more subtle.

The last five years have given us a Holy Father who can paint a picture of true happiness for our children, one that attracts and compels. It is a picture that connects the dots for them — between courage and responsibility and love that gives life and lasting joy.  

It is beautiful to hear the clear and tender voice of the shepherd who knows where are the verdant pastures, and where the dangerous cliffs. Parents like my husband and me are so grateful for his help.