1. Around the world, Catholics and politics still mix.

By Inés San Martín, Crux, March 16, 2017

Although the Catholic Church officially discourages clergy and religious from serving in public office, in many countries Catholic actors nevertheless play key roles in forging peace accords, guaranteeing access to safe water and other humanitarian aims, and lighting a fire under the international community to get involved.

In recent days, examples from around the world suggest that this tradition of political engagement is alive and well.

The Philippines and the war on drugs

The Filipino House of Representatives on March 10 approved a bill which, if endorsed by the Senate, would reimpose the death penalty for drug-related crimes, among others.

According to local reports, Duterte’s “war on drugs” and extra-judicial killings have generated thousand of casualties since last July, and he’s promised to execute “five or six” criminals per day once the death penalty is reintroduced.

If passed by the Senate and signed by the president, death will be carried out by hanging, firing squad or lethal injection for selling, trading and transporting drugs. Possessing drugs would lead to life imprisonment.

The Catholic bishops are having none of it, calling on the faithful to oppose the bill in any way possible. For instance, Bishop Joel Baylon of the Diocese of Legazpi called on the youth to take to social media.

Fighting famine in Africa

Several countries on the continent are currently experiencing food shortages, the product either of severe drought or ethnic conflicts, or a combination of both – and in all these countries, Catholics are on the front lines of relief efforts.


2. Oregon Proposes Outright Legalization of Euthanasia. 

By Cullen Herout, Crisis Magazine March 16, 2017

Oregon has long been ground zero for radical, end-of-life ideology and legislation. It was the first state to legalize physician-assisted suicide (PAS) two decades ago, and since that time the practice has grown both in social acceptance and legislative momentum. Currently, more than 20 states have PAS bills on the legislative docket, and three jurisdictions have legalized the practice over the past two years. 

Sensing a movement toward a more universal acceptance of PAS, and building on the success of the “right to die” movement, advocates are now setting their sights on the as-of-now prohibited practice of euthanasia. Not content with simply allowing doctors to write prescriptions for lethal medications, advocates are working to expand the practice of PAS to allow for euthanasia in cases where the patient is unable to self-administer the lethal medication.

To this end, legislators in Oregon have introduced Senate Bill 893, a bill that would allow for an,

“expressly identified agent, pursuant to lawfully executed advance directive and in accordance with Oregon Death with Dignity Act, to collect and administer prescribed medication for the purpose of ending patient’s life in humane and dignified manner if patient ceases to be capable after having received prescription for life-ending medication.”

To be clear, Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act currently requires that patients receiving a prescription for life-ending medications be able to administer the medications to themselves. This bill would, in certain situations, remove that requirement so that someone else would be able to administer the lethal medication to the patient. This would effectively legalize euthanasia in the state of Oregon.

Euthanasia is a dangerous proposition for marginalized populations, for the medical field, and for society as a whole.


3. Alito: US’s dedication to religious liberty being tested.

By David Porter, Associated Press, March 15, 2017, 10:02 AM

The U.S. is entering a period when its commitment to religious liberty is being tested, Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito told an audience Wednesday at an event sponsored by a Catholic lawyers’ organization.

Alito used his own words from his dissent in the Supreme Court’s landmark same-sex marriage case, telling the gathering he had predicted opposition to the decision would be used to “vilify those who disagree, and treat them as bigots.”

The speech was sponsored by Advocati Christi, a group of Catholic lawyers and judges who seek to “provide an opportunity for lawyers learn about the Catholic faith and Catholic social teaching and to help them integrate these into their life and practice.”


4. Cardinal Wuerl: Why political pulpits are bad for the church.

By Donald Wuerl, The Hill, March 13, 2017, 11:25 AM

It is not unusual to be asked today, “What is the role of the church in politics?” Another way of putting it is, “What contribution does the church bring to the political order?”

The short answer is that the church has much sacred wisdom and human experience to bring to public policy discussions. If we want a society in which public policy defends the life and dignity of all, supports marriage and family, promotes the common good, recognizes religious freedom personally and institutionally, welcomes immigrants and cares for our neighbors in need, then of course the church must be engaged in the public square.

However, we need to be precise and careful when we use the word “church.” The church must be understood as all her members, even though they have different responsibilities and roles. 

This distinction between the roles of clergy and laity in reference to the temporal order is spelled out quite clearly in the Second Vatican Council, now over 50 years ago. The council saw the role of the laity as the sanctification and transformation of the temporal order. In the Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity, this is made explicitly clear.

The clergy’s task of teaching and helping to form the consciences of the laity, as envisioned by the council and subsequent popes, requires patience in dealing with diverse opinions, fidelity in presenting the fullness of church teaching and perseverance in continuing to teach.

Pope Francis, in his address to the Italian Episcopal Conference on May 18, 2015, insisted on the responsibility of the laity for the temporal order without unnecessary clerical supervision and interference: “Lay people with an authentic Christian formation, should not need a pilot bishop or a pilot monsignor or a clerical presence to take on responsibilities on all levels. From the political to the social. From the economic to the legislative.”

There is much at stake in public life: questions of life and death, war and peace, religious freedom and human dignity. There is simply no substitute for informed, faithful, active and courageous lay women and men who will bring the truth of the Gospel and the wisdom of Catholic teaching into public life.

Cardinal Donald Wuerl is the archbishop of Washington and was elevated to the College of Cardinals in 2010 by Pope Benedict XVI.