1. Religious freedom envoy fights for Chinese Muslims, ‘Not hardly anybody else … that will’.

By Christopher Vondracek, The Washington Times, March 26, 2019, Pg. A1

In his office at the State Department, Sam Brownback looks on as the wall clock closes in on 5 p.m. — and loosens his tie.

The U.S. ambassador at large for international religious freedom could be excused for the leisurely moment after returning from a whirlwind trip to Taiwan and Hong Kong, where he taunted China by saying its communist government is in a religious war that it is sure to lose.

International condemnation has risen since late last year when the Chinese government partially acknowledged the existence of internment facilities in northwest Xinjiang province as “vocational training” schools, housing up to nearly 1 million Uighur Muslims.

The former Kansas politician has a long history of supporting religious freedom. In the Senate in the late 1990s, he backed legislation that led to the creation of ambassador at large for international religious freedom within the State Department. He also has been a staunch Christian advocate and social conservative, which some liberal critics have said is inconsistent with his job as a nonsectarian ombudsman for global tolerance.


2. Ohio may end funding for abortion providers, Memo says grant recipients have 30 days to comply.

By Christopher Vondracek, The Washington Times, March 26, 2019, Pg. A8

Ohio officials have given notice to Planned Parenthood and other health care providers that the state may soon end their funding if they “perform or promote” elective abortions, under a state law recently deemed constitutional by a federal appeals court.

Ohio Health Secretary Amy Acton issued a memo Thursday to state grant recipients saying they have 30 days to come into compliance with the 2016 law.

“In future contracts and subgrants, [the Health Department] will add additional assurance language and require acknowledgment signatures to ensure compliance with this law,” Ms. Acton said in the memo.

Earlier this month in an 11-6 ruling, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit upheld Ohio’s law.

 Ohio is the latest jurisdiction to seek to put the pinch on Planned Parenthood in an effort to shut down the nation’s largest abortion provider. In January, a split threejudge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit upheld Texas stripping $3.4 million in Medicaid funds from Planned Parenthood. Last month, the federal government announced it would impose new funding restrictions on clinics or organizations that offer “abortion referrals.”

In February, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar issued a new rule ending Title X funding for health care providers that offer referrals to abortion providers. The rule — called the “gag rule” by opponents — will cancel an estimated $60 million in funding to Planned Parenthood.


3. Leaders of Vatican Women’s Magazine Quit, Citing ‘Climate of Distrust’.

By Elisabetta Povoledo, New York Times Online, March 26, 2019

The founder and the entire editorial board of a Vatican women’s magazine have quit, citing a growing “climate of distrust and progressive delegitimization” of their work inside the Vatican’s communications office.

In a letter of resignation to Pope Francis, Lucetta Scaraffia, the founder and editor of Women Church World, the monthly women’s magazine published by the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano, wrote that the editorial board members, all women, felt that in the last few months, they were being marginalized and that their work was not valued.

“It seems to us that a vital initiative is being reduced to silence, to return to the antiquated and arid method of the top-down selection, under direct male control, of women who are perceived as being reliable,” Ms. Scaraffia wrote in the letter, dated March 21, which was provided to The New York Times. Instead of promoting fruitful discussion, the Vatican preferred to return to a “clerical self-referential” mode, she wrote.

The monthly magazine has focused on women’s issues and on the role of women inside the Roman Catholic Church, and recently had become a forum for exposing and discussing hardships faced by some nuns around the world, including the exploitation of their labor and sexual abuse by priests.


4. West Virginia AG using consumer protection law in suit against diocese.

By Christopher White, Crux, March 26, 2019

Following last week’s lawsuit from West Virginia against the state’s only Catholic diocese and its former bishop for allegedly covering up for abusive priests, the state’s attorney general is calling on witnesses to come forward with any relevant information on the diocese.

Republican Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, himself a Catholic, brought a lawsuit under the grounds of the Consumer Credit and Protection Act and alleges that the diocese and former bishop failed to meet or enforce the standards in which it advertised and claimed to operate safe environments for minors, and now he is soliciting further witnesses as the case makes its way through the circuit court of Wood County.

In a statement last week, the diocese took issue with the factual findings contained within the lawsuit and said that its efforts to protect children were unfairly represented by the attorney general.

“The Diocese will address the litigation in the appropriate forum. However, the Diocese strongly and unconditionally rejects the Complaint’s assertion that the Diocese is not wholly committed to the protection of children, as reflected in its rigorous Safe Environment Program, the foundation of which is a zero tolerance policy for any cleric, employee or volunteer credibly accused of abuse,” the statement said. “The Program employs mandatory screening, background checks and training for all employees and volunteers who work with children.”

“The Diocese also does not believe that the allegations contained in the Complaint fairly portray its overall contributions to the education of children in West Virginia nor fairly portray the efforts of its hundreds of employees and clergy who work every day to deliver quality education in West Virginia,” it continued.

The diocese subsequently released a seven-page letter addressed to “the Faithful of the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston,” detailing its specific record and efforts to provide safe environments and its already established reporting mechanisms.


5. Latin American prelate casts doubt on US accountability plan for abuse crisis.

By Elise Harris, Crux, March 26, 2019

A Latin American bishop with personal experience of the clerical sexual abuse crisis has doubts about a proposal reportedly gaining ground among U.S. bishops to impose accountability for the cover-up of abuse by enhancing the authority of metropolitan archbishops, saying that it amounts to prelates policing other prelates.

Instead, he proposed the creation of independent bodies to provide accountability, featuring lay leadership and especially a greater role for women.

“I am afraid that here the question arises in the background about whether bishops are good judges in our own causes,” said Bishop Kay Schmalhausen of Ayaviri, Peru, adding that he finds the metropolitan proposal “difficult.”

Schmalhausen, who has overseen the diocese of Ayaviri since 2006, is a former member of the Sodalitium Christianae Vitae (SCV), whose founder was sanctioned in 2017 after charges went public that he had committed various abuses of power, conscience and sexuality.

Last November, the U.S. bishops appeared set to adopt a plan to create such an independent body, but they were asked by the Vatican to stay their hand until after Pope Francis’s anti-abuse summit held in Rome Feb. 21-24. Given concerns about the status of such an independent entity under church law, the bishops, led by Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago, now seem to be contemplating some version of the metropolitan approach.

In comments to Crux, Schmalhausen wondered aloud about the wisdom of expecting bishops to hold other bishops accountable.