1. A vow of change in New Zealand.

By Shibani Mahtani and Emanuel Stoakes, The Washington Post, March 18, 2019, Pg. A1

A sports stadium usually filled with cheering crowds instead provided a snapshot of a nation in shock Sunday, as tens of thousands of New Zealanders came together to mourn the victims of Friday’s mosque shootings — and become part of a global debate over the role of guns and intolerance.

The massacre was on the minds of those in the rest of the world as well. 

At the Vatican, Pope Francis in his traditional Sunday prayer said that the mosque attack reflected “the pain wars and conflicts that don’t cease to afflict humanity.” 

Francis led the faithful in a silent prayer “for our Muslim brothers who were killed” and renewed “an invitation to unite in prayer and gestures of peace to oppose hatred and violence.” 


2. Diluting the substance of religious freedom, The ‘Do No Harm Act’ would do great harm to religious freedom.

By Thomas Jipping, The Washington Times, March 18, 2019, Pg. B1, Opinion

“First, do no harm.” That maxim from Hippocrates has universal appeal. Yet today, it is being used as the title of a bill that would do great harm to one of our most cherished natural rights: Religious freedom.

This bill seeks to dilute the substance of religious freedom to nothing more than speech or private worship and to reduce its significance to nothing more, and often less, than other political priorities.

Religious freedom has long been understood to cover more than mere speech and worship ceremonies. Colonial laws, and then the U.S. Constitution itself, protected the “free exercise” of religion. Similarly, the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to which the United States is a signatory, includes not only a person’s freedom of belief but the freedom, “either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief.”

Under S. 593, government laws or regulations in many areas would be completely exempt from the RFRA standard. Government could, and almost certainly would, completely ignore any impact on religious freedom. Not surprisingly, one of those areas involves “access to, information about, a referral for, provision of, or coverage for, any health care item or service.”

Under RFRA, religious organizations or institutions that do any of those things may at least make the argument that it burdens the exercise of their religion. The government would then have to explain why its objective is compelling and why it cannot accomplish that objective any other way. Religious organizations may win or lose, but at least RFRA gives them a way to defend their rights. S. 593 would deny anyone the chance to argue that government ever goes too far. The government would always win.

Thomas L. Jipping is a senior legal fellow at The Heritage Foundation.


3. French cardinal convicted in sex abuse scandal to meet pope.

By The Associated Press, March 18, 2019, 5:29 AM

French cardinal Philippe Barbarin is meeting with the pope after having been convicted by a French court of failing to report a known pedophile priest to police.

Barbarin has said he will resign after becoming the latest high-ranking churchman to fall in the global reckoning over clergy sex abuse and cover-ups. He is scheduled for an audience with Pope Francis Monday morning.

A court in Lyon ruled March 7 that Barbarin had an obligation to report the Rev. Bernard Preynat to civil authorities, and gave the cardinal a six-month suspended prison sentence.


4. As Xi Heads to Italy, Vatican Says China Should Not Fear Church.

By Reuters, March 18, 2019

A top Vatican official says China’s government should not fear “distrust or hostility” from the Roman Catholic Church, writing amid speculation over whether President Xi Jinping will meet Pope Francis this week.

Senior Vatican sources have said Francis is willing to meet Xi and that intermediaries had made overtures to the Vatican, but the Chinese side had not yet formally asked for a meeting. Any encounter would be the first between a Chinese leader and a pope.

Xi’s visit, starting Thursday, is his first to Italy following a historic agreement in September between the Vatican and the Chinese government on the appointment of bishops in China. 

Beijing cut diplomatic ties with the Vatican in 1951 and has remained concerned that an independent Church in China could threaten its authority.

China’s approximately 12 million Catholics have been split between an underground Church swearing loyalty to the Vatican and the state-supervised Catholic Patriotic Association. Now both sides recognize the pope.

Many believe the September deal is a precursor to a resumption of diplomatic ties with Beijing.


5. Lawmakers advance bill to help victims of child sexual abuse, Proposal would make it easier for people to seek damages in civil court.

By Erin Cox, The Washington Post, March 17, 2019, Pg. C3

Amid worldwide investigations of child sexual abuse allegations against the Catholic Church, Maryland lawmakers on Saturday advanced legislation that would let people sue their assailants for damages in civil court regardless of when the abuse took place.

Maryland’s legislation won preliminary approval in the House of Delegates on Saturday, and it would erase an existing statute of limitations on bringing civil sexual abuse cases in the future. It would also apply retroactively, giving victims until October 2021 to file suit over abuse alleged to have happened at any time in the past.


6. A Nun Never Wavered in the Fight for Troubled Youth.

By John Leland, The New York Times, March 17, 2019, Pg. MB7

Fifty years ago Sister Paulette LoMonaco, a young nun from Queens, went to work for a small social services agency called Good Shepherd Services, serving as a house mother at a group home for teenage girls in crisis near Union Square. Within a decade she was running the organization, building it into a one-stop services provider with a budget of almost $100 million. She worked with the city to shape its pilot after-school program, and was also a force behind transfer high schools, which offered adult dropout students a second chance. She also had a hand in reshaping the city’s foster care system, shifting the emphasis from removing children from troubled homes to propping up those families to keep them together.

At the end of this year Sr. Paulette is stepping down from the organization she built. “’Cause I’m tired,” she said. “I’m going to be 76. This is a grueling job.”

But she won’t leave completely. She plans to keep her apartment in the same group home where she first got her start. Recently, she spoke with The New York Times from her modest corner office in Midtown Manhattan.

What do you see as the significant changes in the city over your 50 years?

When we first moved into Park Slope in 1972, Park Slope was an unsafe neighborhood. It had the highest number of kids that were being removed from their homes and put into foster care. That’s why we put a family counseling program there. Today you can’t get real estate there.

What are the biggest changes in the way we do social services?

I remember for the first time when more children were in preventive services than were in foster care. That was a monumental shift. The pendulum has swung from removal to keeping families together.


7. Musings on Giussani, von Balthasar, and the creation of a “people”.

By John L. Allen Jr., Crux, March 17, 2019

In January 1971, during a set of spiritual exercises in Einsiedeln, Switzerland, the great Swiss Catholic theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar met Italian Father Luigi Giussani, who founded the Comunione e Liberazione movement in 1954 and oversaw its rapid development into a global Catholic “brand.”

Von Balthasar had been invited by then-Father Angelo Scola, a young adept of Giusssani’s movement, who eventually would go on to be the Cardinal-Archbishop of Milan and such a strong candidate to be pope that the Italian bishops’ conference accidentally released an email blast congratulating him when the white smoke first went up in March 2013.

That, of course, turned out to be premature, since the 2013 conclave elected Pope Francis instead.

Of course, the ciellini are hardly the only group or current in the Church generating positive energy. To date, the “new movements” haven’t really taken off in the United States, as opposed to other parts of the world, largely due to the general vitality of American parishes. Going forward, however, as the American church digs out from under the disaster of the abuse scandals, there may be a greater hunger for the sense of community and purpose the movements at their best can provide.

Especially now, therefore, pondering the “people” he created can’t help but prompt a sense of curiosity about Giussani himself and what made him tick – and, thankfully, we now have Savorana’s book as an authoritative guide.


8. DiNardo hospitalized after suffering ‘mild stroke’.

By Christopher White, Crux, March 17, 2019

Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, archbishop of Galveston-Houston and the current president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) is recovering in a Texas hospital after suffering a mild stroke.

A statement from the archdiocese released on Saturday said DiNardo was taken to the hospital on Friday and underwent tests, which confirmed on Saturday that he had suffered a mild stroke.

“The Cardinal is resting comfortably and conversing with associates, doctors and nurses. It is expected that Cardinal DiNardo will remain hospitalized for a few more days of testing and observation, followed by a transfer to another facility for rehabilitation,” said the statement.


9. Patrick: The saint who knew what it was like to be a slave.

By Kevin Jones, Catholic News Agency, March 17, 2019

Among the most popular saints today, Saint Patrick was a bishop and missionary to Ireland. However, he also spent several years as a slave, and once issued a heartfelt plea on behalf of girls and boys abducted into slavery.

In his Letter to the Soldiers of Coroticus, St. Patrick intended to shame the fifth-century general whose raiding soldiers the saint declared to be “blood-stained with the blood of innocent Christians, whose numbers I have given birth to in God and confirmed in Christ.” He denounced those who “divide out defenseless baptized women like prizes.”

Patrick said he did not know what grieved him more: those who were slain, those who were captured, or the enslavers themselves – “those whom the devil so deeply ensnared.”

The plea is all the more poignant because St. Patrick was himself a former slave. In his letter he wrote that Irish raiders once took him captive and slaughtered the men and women servants of his father’s household.


10. Pope Reactivates Plans for South Sudan Trip.

By Reuters, March 16, 2019

Pope Francis has asked aides to resume plans for a visit to South Sudan, a trip that had to be scrapped in 2017 because of the civil war in the world’s youngest country.

During a meeting with South Sudanese President Salva Kiir on Saturday, Francis “expressed the wish to ascertain the conditions for a possible visit to South Sudan,” a Vatican statement said.

It added that he wanted to make the trip as “a sign of closeness to the population and of encouragement for the peace process”.

More than half of the population of South Sudan is Christian, while Sudan is predominantly Muslim.

In 2017, Catholic Church leaders in the country said they had expected the pope would visit the capital, Juba, in the autumn of that year. The tentative plans were scrapped because of security concerns.

About 400,000 people have been killed, and more than a third of the country’s 12 million people uprooted by the civil war – a conflict punctuated by multiple rounds of mediation followed by renewed bloodshed.


11. Indiana Moves to Expanding Religious Objection to Abortion.

By The Associated Press, March 15, 2019

Indiana lawmakers are moving closer to allowing nurses, physician assistants and pharmacists to object on religious or other grounds to having any role in an abortion.

The Indiana House voted 69-25 on Thursday in favor of the legislation, which would expand the statute for medical professionals who don’t want to perform an abortion or participate in any procedure that results in an abortion. That includes prescribing, administering or dispensing an abortion-inducing drug, The (Northwest Indiana) Times reported .

State law already authorizes physicians, hospital employees and health clinic staffers to opt out of abortion-related health care based on an ethical, moral or religious objection to abortion. The new measure would extend that option to nurses, physician assistants and pharmacists.


12. ACLU Seeks to Block Fetal Heartbeat Measure in Kentucky.

By The Associated Press, March 15, 2019

Abortion-rights defenders opened a new legal fight against Kentucky on Friday to try to block one of the country’s most restrictive abortion measures, which would mostly ban the procedure once a fetal heartbeat is detected.

Hours after Kentucky’s Republican-dominated legislature passed the so-called fetal heartbeat bill, the American Civil Liberties Union was back in federal court in Louisville to challenge the measure. The legislation won final passage late Thursday and was sent to the state’s anti-abortion governor, Republican Matt Bevin, who signed it Friday.

Late Friday, a federal judge issued a temporary restraining order to block enforcement of the fetal heartbeat bill.

It was the second straight day the ACLU took aim at new abortion restrictions passed by Kentucky lawmakers.


13. Arkansas Governor Signs 18-Week Abortion Ban Into Law.

By The Associated Press, March 15, 2019

Arkansas’ Republican governor has signed into law a measure banning most abortions 18 weeks into a woman’s pregnancy, enacting one of the strictest prohibitions in the country.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Friday signed the measure, which includes exceptions for rape, incest and medical emergencies. Arkansas already bans abortion 20 weeks into a woman’s pregnancy.

The ban will take effect 90 days after the Legislature formally adjourns this year’s session, which is expected to occur in May. A nearly identical 18-week ban has been sent to Utah’s Republican governor.