1. The Democrats Abandon Catholics: If you value religious education or life’s sanctity, you’re not welcome in the party. 

By Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Cardinal Dolan is archbishop of New York, The Wall Street Journal, March 23, 2018, Pg. A15

The values [the first archbishop of New York (1842-64)] Hughes and [vice chancellor of the archdiocese under Cardinal John O’Connor] Dolores Grier cherished—the dignity and sanctity of human life, the importance of Catholic schools, the defense of a baby’s civil rights—were, and still are, widely embraced by Catholics. This often led Catholics to become loyal Democrats. I remember my own grandmother whispering to me, “We Catholics don’t trust those Republicans.”

Such is no longer the case, a cause of sadness to many Catholics, me included. The two causes so vigorously promoted by Hughes and Grier—the needs of poor and middle-class children in Catholic schools, and the right to life of the baby in the womb—largely have been rejected by the party of our youth. An esteemed pro-life Democrat in Illinois, Rep. Dan Lipinski, effectively was blacklisted by his own party. Last year, Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez insisted that pro-life candidates have no place in the modern Democratic Party.

It is particularly chilly for us here in the state Hughes and Grier proudly called their earthly home. In recent years, some Democrats in the New York state Assembly repeatedly blocked education tax credit legislation, which would have helped middle-class and low-income families make the choice to select Catholic or other nonpublic schools for their children. Opposing the bill reduces the ability of fine Catholic schools across the state to continue their mission of serving the poor, many of them immigrants.

More sobering, what is already the most radical abortion license in the country may soon be even more morbidly expanded. For instance, under the proposed Reproductive Health Act, doctors would not be required to care for a baby who survives an abortion. The newborn simply would be allowed to die without any legal implications. And abortions would be legal up to the moment of birth.

The “big tent” of the Democratic Party now seems a pup tent.

I’m a pastor, not a politician, and I’ve certainly had spats and disappointments with politicians from both of America’s leading parties. But it saddens me, and weakens the democracy millions of Americans cherish, when the party that once embraced Catholics now slams the door on us.

To Archbishop Hughes, Dolores Grier, and Grandma Dolan, I’m sorry to have to write this. But not as sad as you are to know it is true.


2. New anti-sex trafficking legislation lauded by U.S. Catholic leaders. 

By Christopher White, Crux, March 23, 2018

Just days after Pope Francis labeled sex trafficking as “criminal” and apologized for any Catholics who participated in it, the United States Congress has passed legislation that would allow prosecutors to go after websites that advertise for prostitutes – a move hailed by leading Catholic activists as an embrace of Francis’s plea to end the scourge of human trafficking.

The bill, known as FOSTA (Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act), had previously passed the House in February, and was approved by the Senate on Wednesday.

President Donald Trump is now expected to sign it into law although an exact date has yet to be announced. Once it takes effect, the legislation will amend the Communications Decency Act, which passed in 1996, and has allowed websites to evade criminal and civil actions from victims of online sex trafficking, which often included teenagers being advertised as sex workers.

Under particular scrutiny is the website Backpage.com – a popular online classified advertisement site that has been accused of knowingly being involved in sex trafficking, yet up until now has successfully been shielded from prosecution.

While anti-trafficking laws exists in all 50 states, the current version of section 230 in the Communications Decency Act did not allow websites to be held accountable for content posted by third party users. The new legislation will now hold websites responsible for knowingly promoting illegal activity, such as the likes of Backpage.com.

Section 230 “was used as a shield by bad actors who are fully aware of their role in facilitating and profiting from the horrific crime of child sex trafficking,” said Andrea Picciotti-Bayer, a legal advisor to the Catholic Association.

“The true test of how much teeth this new law has will be in its aggressive enforcement by law enforcement and in the courts against the unscrupulous,” she told Crux.

Catholic advocates have cheered Congress’s actions, noting that it comes at a time when the global Church has spotlighted the issue of human trafficking and become a leading player in the fight to bring it to an end.

Those sentiments were echoed by Picciotti-Bayer who urged all American Catholics to continue to heed the pope’s concerns against trafficking.

“Pope Francis has asked countries to consider how their complicity tolerates and even encourages sex trafficking. Catholics in America must heed the Holy Father’s concern,” she said.

“We can contribute to the protection of children from trafficking through continued emphasis on safeguarding of the innocent and the proper understanding of human sexuality as a gift between spouses -not something to be bought and sold on the net,” said Picciotti-Bayer.


3. Prosecutors to Drop Some Sex-Offense Charges Against Cardinal Pell: Hearings continue on whether charges of historical sexual offenses against Vatican finance chief will go to trial. 

By Robb M. Stewart, The Wall Street Journal, March 23, 2018, 2:38 AM

Several charges against Cardinal George Pell, one of the Vatican’s most senior officials, will be dropped, prosecutors said Friday.

At the conclusion of the third of four weeks of hearings to determine whether charges of historical sexual offenses will go to trial, prosecutor Mark Gibson told the court that a scheduled witness wouldn’t be able to testify for unspecified medical reasons. He said charges would be withdrawn formally next week.

One charge against Cardinal Pell, Pope Francis ’ finance chief, was dropped as the pretrial hearings began.

Mr. Pell stepped away from his role at the Vatican last year, after police in Australia’s southern Victoria state in late June charged the cardinal with multiple historical sexual offenses. The number and nature of the charges, which involve multiple complainants, haven’t been disclosed. Mr. Pell has vehemently denied any wrongdoing and, through his lawyer, indicated a plea of not guilty to all charges.

The hearings allow the defense to examine statements made by dozens of witnesses named by the prosecution.


4. Leonard Leo Recognized for Catholic Leadership, Witness on Life and Religious Liberty. 

By Kathryn Jean Lopez, National Review, March 22, 2018, 11:01 AM

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been reading books that have the TAN Books publishing label, picking them up in Catholic bookstores, and eventually on Amazon.com. I’m even – when I finally turn the manuscript in – compiling one of their devotionals this year. So naturally I was interested when I saw that the people at TAN Books and Saint Benedict’s Press have established a Benedict Leadership Institute at Belmont Abbey College and for the second year in a row are giving an award to someone I have a lot of respect for, who uses his influence for good, and who I happen to most often run into in churches around the world. Leonard Leo, executive vice president of the Federalist Society for Law and Public Policy, is this year’s recipient. The executive director of the Benedict Leadership Institute, Conor Gallagher, who is also publisher of TAN Books and Saint Benedict’s Press and also an adjunct professor of philosophy and political philosophy at Belmont Abbey College, talks about the award being given tonight.

Lopez: How did you come to choose Leonard Leo to honor in your second year?

Gallagher: The Abbey has long defended religious liberty. It was in our defense of religious liberty that we learned Leonard Leo is one of the preeminent leaders in this arena, including as three-term chairman of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. Additionally, the Federalist Society is helping the current presidential administration find great conservative judges who believe in the Constitution. Mr. Leo is leading the charge on behalf of the Federalist Society in finding these judges.

Lopez: Both Leo and last year’s recipient, Carl Anderson, have been active in the defense of and education about Christian persecution internationally. I would guess that’s not by accident?

Gallagher: You are correct. Belmont Abbey feels a great sense of solidarity with our Christian brothers and sisters who are persecuted, abandoned, and even martyred. We Americans need to be reminded of this regularly — in between our runs to Starbucks and Target. Our fellow Christians are suffering greatly. People like Carl Anderson and Leonard Leo can provide us with concrete actions we can take to help our brethren.

Lopez: You’ve also noticed his “personal witness to the sanctity of life”? What stands out to you about that?

Gallagher: Well, since you asked about personal witness: Leonard and his wife have two special-needs children. The first, Margaret, has gone to her eternal reward. Margaret became an inspiring witness to all those around her. She is featured as one of three children who died heroic deaths in a book entitled, Littlest Suffering Souls. And Mr. Leo’s commitment to her, and her influence on him, is inspiring for all parents.

Lopez: In some ways how Leonard Leo lives could be seen as the opposite of how Rod Dreher’s Benedict Option is conventionally understood (flee for the monasteries! which isn’t really Rod’s point). But if “The Benedict Option” is at heart about living the contemplative life in every vocation, is Leo some of the best of it at work?

Gallagher: Yes. Here is why: Leo’s faith is central to all he does, like a monastery use to be central to a medieval village. A true Catholic in the public square must have faith as like an internal Grand Central Station, by and through which everything comes and goes.


5. Bishops disappointed with Congress’s inaction on Conscience Protection Act. 

By Catholic News Service, March 22, 2018

The chairmen of the U.S. bishops’ pro-life and religious freedom committees said it was “deeply disappointing” that Congress omitted the Conscience Protection Act from the congressional funding bill for fiscal year 2018.

“We call on Congress not to give up until this critical legislation is enacted,” said a March 22 joint statement from Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, chairman of the bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, and Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, chair of the Committee for Religious Liberty.

The church leaders said the legislation is “an extraordinarily modest bill that proposes almost no change to existing conscience protection laws on abortion laws that receive wide public and bipartisan support.”


6. Author of “The Dictator Pope” suspended as Knight of Malta. 

By Nicole Winfield, Associated Press, March 22, 2018, 4:57 PM

The author of a highly critical book about Pope Francis, entitled “The Dictator Pope,” has been suspended by the Knights of Malta lay religious order.

In a statement Thursday, the order said it disassociated itself from the book and condemned the “vile attack against the pope.” It said author and member Henry Sire was suspended pending the results of an investigation.


7. Kansas appeals Planned Parenthood case to US Supreme Court. 

By Associated Press, March 22, 2018, 8:54 PM

Kansas is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn a federal appeals court ruling that prevents the state from cutting off Medicaid funds to a Planned Parenthood affiliate.

Republican Gov. Jeff Colyer said Thursday that the state is seeking to reverse a 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision last month. Colyer is a strong abortion opponent.

The appeals court’s decision left in place a lower court’s preliminary injunction blocking a move by Kansas in 2015 to end its contract with Planned Parenthood Great Plains. It was the fifth of six appeals courts to uphold patients’ right to receive health care from their preferred qualified provider.