1. Pope demands sex abuse claims be reported in Vatican City.

By Nicole Winfield, The Associated Press, March 29, 2019, 7:50 AM

Pope Francis on Friday issued sweeping new sex abuse legislation for Vatican personnel and Holy See diplomats that requires the immediate reporting of abuse allegations to Vatican prosecutors, a policy shift aimed at being a model for the Catholic Church worldwide.

The mandatory reporting provision marks the first time the Vatican has put into law requirements for Catholic officials to report allegations of sex crimes to police or face fines and possible jail time.

Francis also issued child protection guidelines for Vatican City State and its youth seminary, acting after the global sex abuse scandal exploded anew last year and The Associated Press reported that the headquarters of the Catholic Church had no policy to protect children from predator priests.

The new law covers all personnel who live and work in the Vatican, the 44-hectare (110-acre) city state in the center of Rome, as well as the Holy See’s vast diplomatic corps in embassies around the world.

The Vatican’s ambassadors have figured in some of the most scandalous cases of sex abuse in recent years, with papal representatives accused of groping, distributing child pornography and sexually abusing minors in their far-flung posts.


2. Hollywood Admits Abortion Is Violent.

By Joseph F. Naumann, The Wall Street Journal, March 29, 2019, Pg. A15, Opinion
Archbishop Naumann is archbishop of Kansas City, Kan.

When I was young, it was common in Catholic households to find the church’s weekly Legion of Decency movie reviews cut out and taped to the refrigerator. Hollywood producers dreaded a C rating—“condemned”— because Catholics would stay away from such films in droves.

While the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops still offers guidance for moviegoers, many people look first to the ratings of the Motion Picture Association of America. I recently saw a film that received an R rating from the MPAA that I nevertheless recommend to all people of goodwill.

“Unplanned” is the true story of Abby Johnson, a former Planned Parenthood clinic director. On a morning when her clinic was short-staffed, a doctor asked Ms. Johnson to assist during a surgical abortion on a 13-week-old unborn child by holding the ultrasound probe as he positioned the suction catheter. Ms. Johnson was so distraught by what she witnessed that she resigned.

“Unplanned” got its R rating for “violence.” It is noteworthy for Hollywood to acknowledge

that abortion is violent, but the on-screen violence in “Unplanned” isn’t gratuitous; it’s medically accurate. Viewers see exactly what compelled Ms. Johnson to leave an organization to which she had devoted herself for more than eight years.

Many Americans have been shocked by the extreme abortion legislation recently enacted in New York, where abortion is legal up to the moment of birth and a teenage girl can have an abortion without her parents’ knowledge or consent. What an irony that the MPAA rating of “Unplanned” doesn’t allow a 16year-old to see this movie without a parent or guardian present.

 Perhaps Abby Johnson’s courage in coming forward will change our nation from one that embraces violent, Rrated solutions for unplanned pregnancies to one that sees each human life as a gift to be celebrated.


3. The Islamic World’s China Blind Spot.

By Charlotte Allen, The Wall Street Journal, March 29, 2019, Pg. A15, Opinion, Houses of Worship

After a shooting rampage left dozens of Muslim worshipers dead in Christchurch, New Zealand, the governments of Muslimmajority countries condemned the attack. Some cited Islamophobia as a cause of the violence. This is understandable, but most of the Islamic world remains silent about the world’s worst instance of official Islamophobia.

About 15 years ago China began a program of protracted cultural genocide against the nearly 11 million Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang province. Government- run concentration camps reportedly hold more than one million Uighurs. Former detainees report that the government desecrates Qurans and forces prisoners to eat pork and renounce Islam. Others have been tortured and starved. Beijing first denied the existence of the camps but now euphemistically calls them “vocational education centers.”

Yet leaders of Muslim-majority nations remain mostly silent about the Uighurs’ plight. Governments that quickly criticize Israel over any issue involving Muslim Palestinians have been silent in the face of the industrial-scale oppression of Muslims.

It’s all well and good for Muslim-majority countries and their representatives to denounce Islamophobia in the West. But it is troubling that large-scale Islamophobia, and the systematic violence against Muslims that follows, can be eased out of the public conversation simply by the oldest of lures—money.


4. Execution is stopped over religious request.

By Robert Barnes, The Washington Post, March 29, 2019, Pg. A2

The Supreme Court Thursday night stopped the execution of a Texas inmate because the state refused his request to have a Buddhist spiritual adviser with him in the death chamber.

The court’s decision contrasted with its actions last month, when it allowed the execution of a Muslim prisoner in Alabama who was denied his request to have an imam with him at the time of his death.

The court’s conservatives were criticized by liberals and religious conservatives for the decision. They said that the request came too late.

Texas officials had made the same argument about Patrick Murphy, who was part of a gang of escaped inmates who killed a suburban Dallas police officer during a Christmas Eve robbery more than 18 years ago.

But the Supreme Court’s order Thursday night said Texas could not execute Murphy “unless the state permits Murphy’s Buddhist spiritual advisor or another Buddhist reverend of the state’s choosing to accompany Murphy in the execution chamber during the execution.” 


5. The Abortion Divide Gets Deeper, With Roe threatened, red and blue states are pulling even further apart.

By Michelle Goldberg, New York Times Online, March 29, 2019

With the ascension of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, as well as a host of other judges appointed by Donald Trump to lower courts, anti-abortion forces are engaged in a game of legislative whack-a-mole. Sensing their chance to either eviscerate or overturn Roe v. Wade, Republicans are pushing a barrage of anti-abortion measures at the state level, seeing which one goes all the way to the top.

Access to abortion is already as polarized as anything else in this fracturing country, and it could become dramatically more so. Conservatives, as well as some moderates, have argued that ending Roe would ease culture-war hostilities. “Returning the matter to the states would give most people a law they can live with, defusing the rage that permeates politics and has more than once culminated in acts of terrorism against doctors who perform abortions,” wrote The Washington Post’s Megan McArdle last year. The early signs, however, suggest that radically different abortion regimes can’t comfortably exist side by side.

As Roe is weakened, conservative states are becoming more conservative, liberal states more liberal. Mutual antagonism is increasing around abortion, as it is around nearly everything else. If Roe is overturned altogether, it won’t just be a disaster for women’s health care and autonomy. It will further rip America apart.

Fighting over the most fundamental questions of human autonomy, each side in the divide is going to use whatever influence it can muster against the other. If Roe falls, liberals won’t like what follows, but conservatives might not either.


6. Pope seeks to build on Muslim outreach with Morocco trip.

By Nicole Winfield and Amira El Masiati, The Associated Press, March 29, 2019, 4:42 AM

Pope Francis is forging ahead with promoting moderate Islam during a weekend trip to Morocco, seeking to build on warming ties with the Sunni world while also ministering to a tiny Catholic community and offering solidarity with migrants.

For the 82-year-old pope, the 27-hour, whirlwind visit to Rabat, the Moroccan capital, will be a welcome reboot to a year that has otherwise been dominated by the global Catholic clergy sex abuse scandal and the downfall of three of his cardinals.

The trip comes after Francis’ February visit to the United Arab Emirates, where the pope and the imam of Cairo’s Al Azhar, the seat of Sunni learning, signed a landmark joint statement establishing the relationship between Catholics and Muslims as brothers, with a common mission to promote peace.

The highlight of the Morocco trip will be Francis’ visit Saturday to the Mohammed VI Institute, a school of learning for imams that epitomizes Morocco’s efforts to promote a moderate brand of Islam and export it via preachers to Africa, the Middle East and Europe.

Morocco, a Sunni Muslim kingdom of 36 million, reformed its religious policies and education to limit the spread of fundamentalism in 2004, following terrorist bombings in Casablanca in 2003 that killed 43 people.


7. China city offers cash for information in religion crackdown.

By The Associated Press, March 29, 2019, 6:19 AM

A southern Chinese city is offering cash rewards for information about “illegal religious groups” as the ruling Communist Party continues to tighten its grip over faith communities.

A notice posted on the official website of the Guangzhou Department of Ethnic and Religious Affairs said up to 10,000 yuan ($15,000) would be paid for verified information and assistance in hunting down key members and leaders of illegal foreign religious groups and revealing their structures.

The department said smaller rewards would be offered for reports about religious venues set up without permission and behavior encouraging “religious extremism.”

Under President Xi Jinping, the officially atheistic ruling party has sought to eliminate all religious expression not under its direct control, especially that by Uighurs, Kazakhs and other Muslim ethnic minority groups.


8. Sohrab Ahmari’s Modern-Day Confessions.

By Julia Meloni, Crisis Magazine, March 29, 2019

Like Augustine’s spiritual autobiography, Ahmari’s compellingly written memoir is punctuated with soul-aches and poignant laments for misspent time. It brims with final awe at the irruption of grace into a soul so wounded by sin. Ultimately this book is, as Cardinal Burke puts it, “not so much about Sohrab Ahmari but about the work of divine grace in his soul.”

Eventually, after a series of increasingly irresistible divine knockings on his soul, Ahmari realized that both he and Augustine had “waded through the same river of error.” He saw his past for what it was: so much squandered time, lost in dissolute neglect of God and soul. He saw the philosophies of his youth as so many unsatisfying attempts to explain away the sin within him.

“Our Lord’s gift of radical absolution on the Cross was the only thing capable of repairing the brokenness in me and around me,” he concluded.

Ahmari’s last chapter brims with Augustinian spiritual thirst and exquisite descriptions of a solemn high Latin Mass. This section’s epigraph could well be Augustine’s piercing cry: “Late have I loved thee, Beauty ever ancient, ever new, late have I loved thee.”

“Mass after Mass, I watched as others took Communion, and all I wished to do was to lie face down on the ground before the Sacrament in abject adoration,” Ahmari recalls. “There was no better proof of [Our Lord’s] presence than this desire.”

Kneeling before a statue of Our Lord, he repeated, some thirty or forty times: “Forgive me. Cleanse me.” Ahmari’s prayer was answered when he was baptized—with Augustine as his patron.

“There is no rest where you seek it. Seek what you seek but it is not where you seek it.” This Augustinian dictum, Ahmari says, could have served as his gravestone’s epitaph had he died before his conversion. Instead, by God’s grace, we have Ahmari’s moving testimony of his deliverance from fire, by water.


9. Ahead of Morocco trip, scholar looks at religious freedom in Islam.

By Christopher WhiteCrux, March 29, 2019

In his new book, Religious Freedom in Islam: The Fate of a Universal Human Right in the Muslim World Today, Notre Dame scholar Daniel Philpott considers the status of religious freedom in the world’s 47 Muslim majority countries.

Ahead of Pope Francis’s trip to Morocco this weekend, Crux spoke with Philpott about the status of religious freedom in that country, his expectations of the trip, and why “the Muslim landscape is also diverse and contains grounds for hope.”

Crux: For starters, why do you believe it necessary to consider if religious freedom is compatible with Islam?

Philpott: Much hinges on the question of religious freedom and Islam. Here in the West, a culture war has raged over Islam at least as far back as the attacks of September 11, 2001, pitting “Islamoskeptics,” who say that Islam is hard-wired for violence and that the West must gird up for a long civilizational struggle, against “Islamopluralists,” who say that Islam is as peaceful as any religion and that westerners ought to avoid provoking extremists. The culture war takes place on talk radio, the internet, and cable news, but also in higher brow venues like The New Republic and the National Review. Much is at stake.

Finally, religious freedom is a matter of justice, plain and simple. When Bahais, Jews, or Christians suffer repression in Muslim-majority countries, just as when Muslims are mistreated in western countries (think only of the recent atrocities in New Zealand), human dignity and human rights are diminished.


10. Pope’s visit to Morocco will have a Spanish flavor.

By Inés San Martín, Crux, March 29, 2019

During his 28 apostolic trips outside of Italy, Pope Francis has never visited the Catholic powerhouse Spain. His upcoming visit to Morocco, however, will be dominated by Spaniards.

The population of the North African country is 99 percent Muslim, and of the estimated 40,000 Catholics, almost all are immigrants or the children of immigrants. The local Catholic hierarchy – from bishops to nuns – mostly comes from Spain, which is not surprising, given the two countries are only separated by seven miles.

This includes the three religious sisters who will be welcoming Francis to an agricultural learning center on the outskirts of Rabat on Sunday. Members of the Daughters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul, they consider the 150 children they feed every day as members of their family.


11. Texas AG investigating Chick-fil-A’s exclusion at airport.

By Clarice Silber, The Associated Press, March 28, 2019, 7:50 PM

Texas’ attorney general opened an investigation Thursday into San Antonio’s decision to exclude Chick-fil-A from opening airport concession facilities due to the fast-food chain owners’ record on LGBT issues.

Attorney General Ken Paxton announced the investigation in a letter to San Antonio officials and stated his office will examine whether Texas’ second-largest city violated state law with the rejection. Paxton called the move “the opposite of tolerance” and a “discriminatory decision” based on the religious beliefs of the chain’s owners.

“The Constitution’s protection of religious liberty is somehow even better than Chick-fil-A’s chicken,” Paxton said in the letter. “Unfortunately, I have serious concerns that both are under assault at the San Antonio airport.”

The attorney general’s action comes after the San Antonio City Council voted 6-4 last week to block Chick-fil-A from getting a new concession contract at the airport. The councilmembers voted instead for city staff to find another company for the contract.

The Atlanta-based fast-food chain has faced opposition elsewhere over donating millions over the years to groups that oppose same-sex marriage. In 2012, the company’s chief operating officer criticized same-sex marriage, prompting some politicians to block the chain from expanding in certain areas.

Earlier this month, a dean at Rider University in New Jersey resigned over the school’s decision to not consider bringing Chick-fil-A to campus because of its opposition to the LGBT community.