1. New limits on abortion set for legal challenge.

By Associated Press, The Washington Post, March 27, 2019, Pg. A2

Utah Gov. Gary R. Herbert (R) has signed a law banning most abortions after 18 weeks of gestation, setting the stage for a legal showdown.

Opponents said the measure, signed into law late Monday, is unconstitutional and promised to sue. The law is expected to take effect in May.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Utah pointed to the U.S. Supreme Court’s longtime holding that states cannot ban abortion before the fetus is viable outside the womb, usually at about 23 weeks.

The ban adds to a long list of abortion restrictions in Utah, including a 72-hour waiting period and an in-person informed consent session, Planned Parenthood of Utah said.


2. Judge rules against N.C. abortion law.

By Associated Press, The Washington Post, March 27, 2019, Pg. A2

A federal judge has declared unconstitutional a North Carolina law banning women from having abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy except in an urgent medical emergency. The decision Monday by U.S. District Judge William Osteen in Greensboro gave state legislators 60 days before his ruling takes effect to allow them to amend abortion restrictions or appeal his ruling to a higher court. 


3. Vatican publication’s all-female staff resigns.

By Chico Harlan and Stefano Pitrelli, The Washington Post, March 27, 2019, Pg. A16

The founder and staff of an all-female monthly Vatican publication have stepped down en masse, citing what they call a newly difficult work environment and a Vatican attempt to undercut the women’s voices on sensitive issues, including sexual abuse of nuns.

“The whole newsroom has resigned,” Lucetta Scaraffia, who launched Women Church World seven years ago, said in a phone interview.

Scaraffia was known as a comparatively liberal voice inside the city-state’s ancient walls, advocating for a larger role for women in the church and, more recently, devoting editorial space to the long-hidden issue of the abuse of nuns by clergy members. 

The resignations come at a sensitive time for the Catholic Church, which has been dealing with a cascade of abuse-related cases worldwide and has been trying to show it is now more attuned to the problem. Church officials say they have tried to more closely involve women in the debate over how the Vatican can better respond to abuse. At a summit on clerical abuse in February, several women were given major speaking roles. 


4. Australian Journalists Accused of Contempt.

By Robb M. Stewart, The Wall Street Journal, March 27, 2019, Pg. A8

More than 20 Australian journalists, including editors of major newspapers, face possible prison terms and fines for allegedly breaching a judicial order suppressing coverage of a top Vatican official’s conviction for child sex abuse.

Prosecutors have accused some of the country’s largest newspapers, radio stations and online media groups of contempt of court for publishing news of Cardinal George Pell’s guilty verdict in December on five counts of sexually abusing two choirboys in the 1990s. The contempt charges, filed at the Supreme Court of Victoria, the southern Australian state where Cardinal Pell stood trial, could carry a five-year sentence or tens of thousands of dollars in fines upon conviction.


5. U.S. Expands Anti-Abortion Policies.

By Edward Wong, The New York Times, March 27, 2019, Pg. A6

The Trump administration will withhold funding from foreign nongovernmental organizations that give money to foreign groups that perform abortions, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Tuesday.

In an expansion of the administration’s anti-abortion policies, Mr. Pompeo also said the government was “fully enforcing” a law that prohibits groups from using United States aid to lobby on abortion issues.

“We will enforce a strict prohibition on backdoor funding schemes and end-runs around our policy,” Mr. Pompeo said. “American taxpayer dollars will not be used to underwrite abortions.”

The move builds on a 2017 announcement by the Trump administration that it was reinstating and expanding the so-called Mexico City policy. The executive action dating to 1984 — and described by critics as the “global gag rule” — requires foreign nongovernmental organizations to refuse to perform abortions in exchange for receiving American funding.


6. Victim of Clergy Abuse Gets $2 Million in a Settlement.

By Jacey Fortin, The New York Times, March 27, 2019, Pg. A15

A man who was sexually abused as a child by a Catholic priest in Pennsylvania received $2 million in a settlement with the Erie diocese that the priest was a member of, the victim’s lawyer said on Tuesday.

The priest, David L. Poulson, pleaded guilty in October to two felony charges for sexually assaulting one boy and trying to assault another. In January, he was sentenced to up to 14 years in prison.

According to the office of Josh Shapiro, Pennsylvania’s attorney general, Mr. Poulson assaulted one of his victims 20 times in church rectories between 2002 and 2010 and had the victim talk about the abuse in confession with him.

The Diocese of Erie said in a statement on Tuesday that it “stands behind the settlement in the interests of justice and recognizes the harms suffered by this victim.”


7. American Catholicism may be down, but March proves it’s not out.

By John L. Allen Jr., Editor, Crux, March 27, 2019

In effect, what the experience has offered is a crash course in the state of American Catholicism in early 2019. We’ve spent time with cardinals, bishops, religious, theologians, lay activists and ordinary rank-and-file folks from one end of the country to the other, in a variety of settings – places that seemed to lean both “left” and “right,” official venues and decidedly unofficial ones, both small parishes and vast ballrooms.

For what it’s worth, here’s my bottom line: I’m coming away more bullish about the prospects for the Church in the U.S. than I began.

In Boston, we reconnected with the “Church in the 21st Century Project,” an initiative launched in 2002 that’s become one of the country’s premier forums for smart conversation about the Church. I took part in an event hosted by Jack Dunn, BC’s Associate Vice President and university spokesman, featuring myself and Jesuit Father Matt Malone, editor of America.

Along the way, Dunn quoted from a 2018 piece by Malone on why he remains a priest after the latest wave of the abuse scandals that broke out over the summer. America is often seen as fairly liberal, but what Malone had to say wasn’t at all political.

Still, the narrative about American Catholicism in our time would lead one to expect pain, anger, and disillusionment. The surprise is how much more there still is – how much energy, good will, creativity, and drive is still in circulation, sometimes in places you’d least expect it.

Bottom line: Yes, Virginia, the Catholic Church in America is down … but at least judging by 18 days in March, it’s definitely not out.


8. Pope’s visit to Morocco shows ‘Christians and Muslims are not enemies’.

By Inés San Martín, Crux, March 27, 2019

Even though Abdellah Redouane has spent the past 20 years of his life as the director of the Islamic Cultural Center of Italy, the Morocco-born man can’t disguise his hope for the upcoming March 30-31 papal visit to his homeland.

“This is not just a regular visit,” Redouane told Crux on Tuesday. “I believe it’s particularly important because 99 percent of the population in Morocco is Muslim. Inviting the pope, who is the leader of the Catholic religion, is something important, and we must thank those who worked to organize this visit.”

He believes that the papal visit can help build bridges between Muslims and Christians in Morocco, a country where, he acknowledged that despite the legal protection for religious freedom, there are instances of religious-based violence.

Francis’s visit, he said, can help “by reminding us Christians and Muslims are not enemies, but people who can work together, showing the followers of the two religions that if the leaders meet, they embrace, why cannot we too do the same?”


9. An Open Letter to Cardinal Reinhard Marx.

By George Weigel, First Things, March 27, 2019

Your Eminence:

I noted with interest your recent announcement of a “binding synodal process” during which the Church in Germany will discuss the celibacy of the Latin-rite Catholic priesthood, the Church’s sexual ethic, and clericalism, these being “issues” put on the table by the crisis of clerical sexual abuse.

Perhaps the following questions will help sharpen your discussions.

1) How can the “synodal process” of a local Church produce “binding” results on matters affecting the entire Catholic Church? The Anglican Communion tried this and is now in terminal disarray; the local Anglican churches that took the path of cultural accommodation are comatose. Is this the model you and your fellow-bishops favor?

Your Eminence, the German Church—the Catholicism of my ancestors—is dying. It will not be revitalized by becoming a simulacrum of moribund liberal Protestantism.

I wish you a fruitful Lent and a joyful Easter.


10. Pope honors Rome’s legacy of integration over centuries.

By The Associated Press, March 26, 2019, 7:18 AM

Pope Francis has crossed the Tiber River for a visit to Rome’s city hall, paying homage to an ancient city that integrated diverse peoples over centuries of its existence.

During his visit to the Rome’s City Hall on Tuesday, Francis said that “Rome, over its nearly 2,800 years of history, has been able to welcome and integrate different populations and people from all over the world … without humiliating or crushing their respective peculiar characteristics and identity.”

He also warned against letting the Eternal City become degraded now.

Rome is struggling with problems of garbage removal, potholed streets and other issues of decay that have worsened on the watch of Mayor Virginia Raggi, who welcomed him to the Capitoline Hill, where city hall is located.


11. Judge cautions lawyers to watch language in abortion case.

By Bruce Schreiner, The Associated Press, March 26, 2019

A federal judge in Kentucky has cautioned lawyers to watch their language in their bitter legal feud over abortion — this time over a lawsuit challenging two new state laws aimed at putting more restrictions on the procedure.

U.S. District Judge David J. Hale set a Friday hearing on a motion for a preliminary injunction requested by attorneys for EMW Women’s Surgical Center in Louisville — the only abortion clinic in Kentucky. Attorneys for Republican Gov. Matt Bevin are defending the laws passed recently by the GOP-dominated legislature and signed by the governor. The clinic’s attorneys argue both laws are unconstitutional.

In setting the hearing, Hale cautioned lawyers to “avoid intemperate language” in their pre-hearing documents.

The judge didn’t state any reason for urging attorneys to watch their language.