1. The Population Bomb Was a Dud, Paul Ehrlich got it wrong because he never understood human potential. 

By William McGurn, Columnist, The Wall Street Journal, May 1, 2018, Pg. A13, Opinion

Fifty years ago this month, Mr. Ehrlich published “The Population Bomb.” In it he portended global cataclysm—unless the world could be persuaded to stop producing so many . . . well . . . people. The book sketched out possible scenarios of the hell Mr. Ehrlich believed imminent: hundreds of millions dying from starvation, England disappearing by the year 2000, India doomed, the average American’s lifespan falling to 42 by 1980, and so on.

Mr. Ehrlich’s book sold three million copies, and his crabbed worldview became an unquestioned orthodoxy for the technocratic class that seems to welcome such scares as an opportunity to boss everyone else around.

Enter Julian Lincoln Simon.

Simon was a professor of business and economics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. In 1981, when this columnist first met him, Julian would smile and say the doom-and-gloomers had a false understanding of scarcity that led them to believe resources are fixed and limited.

The evidence, by contrast, was that by almost any measure—life expectancy, infant mortality, caloric intake—things were getting better all the time. The reality, Julian liked to say, is that we live amid “an epidemic of life.”

 It was the idea that the finite supply of any given natural resource is only one part of the equation. The other is human ingenuity, which adapts to circumstances and turns what were once luxuries into everyday amenities. That’s why Julian called the human mind “The Ultimate Resource.” And that’s why it never runs out.


2. Summit of German shepherds, Vatican heavyweights captures three ironies. 

By John L. Allen Jr., Crux, May 1, 2018

It’s not often that one Vatican get-together manages to capture three grand ironies about the state of things in Catholicism, but such would seem to be the case with a summit involving Vatican officials and German prelates this coming Thursday on the issue of Communion for the Protestant spouses of Catholics in mixed marriages.

In one way or another, the session reflects these three insights:

[1.] Even when a pope or a Vatican regime are genuinely committed to decentralization, it’s tough in a global village for Rome to sit things out for very long.

[2.] Some issues in the Church carry tremendous symbolic importance in one part of the world, but may have their greatest impact in another.

[3.] Pope Francis is the first pope from the global south, but much of the ad intra drama of his papacy revolves around a first world setting par excellence – the wealthy and theologically combustible German Catholic Church.

The impetus for Thursday’s meeting stems from a late February session of the German bishops’ conference, which adopted guidelines allowing Protestant spouses to receive Communion under certain conditions, most notably that they “share the Catholic faith” on the Eucharist.

That led a group of seven German bishops, including Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki of Cologne, to write to the Vatican requesting clarification as to whether this is something that can be decided by a local bishops’ conference, or if what’s needed is a “decision of the universal Church.”

The letter was written without the knowledge of Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich, president of the German bishops’ conference and a member of the pope’s “C9” council of cardinal advisors. In an April 4 reply, Marx professed surprise since the text discussed in February, he said, is just a draft and can still be modified.

In other words, irony #1 is that Francis is striving to be a decentralizing pope in a highly centralizing era.

Second, Marx’s response to the letter by seven of his fellow prelates was especially telling when he said, in essence, he doesn’t quite get what the fuss is about, since allowing Protestant spouses to receive Communion when they share the Catholic faith on the Eucharist and have spoken with a pastor is already established practice in Germany, based on existing Church legislation and papal teaching.

Where it could mean more is other parts of the world, especially where mixed marriages are most common. There is obviously a difference between saying “the Germans do x” and “the Germans now have papal authorization to do x,” making it difficult to explain why other local churches shouldn’t have the same latitude. Thus irony #2: An accommodation justified by German exigencies could, if granted, have it greatest impact elsewhere.

Third, it’s striking that once again, German-speaking Catholicism is acting as prime mover in internal ecclesiastical debates in the Francis era.

Admirers will say that some of the finest theological reflection in Catholicism over the last several centuries has come out of the German-speaking realm, and it’s completely appropriate that the fruits of that tradition are being collected. Critics generally look askance, wondering why plummeting vocations and Mass attendance rates qualify Germany to be teaching lessons to the rest of the Catholic world.

Whichever view one adopts, here’s irony #3: Even under a “third world” pope, the first world is hardly irrelevant. In good Catholic both/and fashion, the reality of the 21st century Church isn’t south instead of north, but rather south plus north.

Those three points, by the way, don’t depend at all on what happens when the German shepherds and Vatican heavyweights get together on Thursday. For that, we’ll just have to wait and see!


3. Cardinal Pell to stand trial on sex abuse, but several charges dismissed. 

By John L. Allen Jr., Crux, May 1, 2018

Following a four-week committal hearing last month, an Australian magistrate on Tuesday dismissed some of the most serious charges of “historical sexual offenses” against Cardinal George Pell but also ruled that the 76-year-old prelate will stand trial on at least three different complaints.

It’s not clear at this point when that trial will take place, though sources in Australia say that criminal procedures of this sort often can last one year to 18 months. Pell has denied the charges vigorously since police first filed them last summer, and he pleaded “not guilty” on Tuesday during his court hearing.

He is expected to face a directions hearing in Melbourne’s County Court in the future, when a trial date will be set. Pell’s attorney on Tuesday said he may seek separate trials, given the nature of the remaining allegations.


4. An Object of Detestation. 

By Stephen White, Stephen P. White is a fellow in Catholic Studies at the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, The Catholic Thing, April 30, 2018

It was always likely that young Alfie Evans would die in a hospital with his parents at his bedside. All the court battles and papal tweets and prayer vigils and armies of support for the British toddler were never likely to change that. Miracles do happen, but then, there’s a reason we call them miracles. It was never likely that doctors in Italy (or anywhere else) could have done more for Alfie than the doctors in Liverpool. Possible perhaps, but not likely.

What began as a dispute between a child’s parents and his doctors, however, over a course of treatment, became a legal dispute about who could speak for Alfie’s best interest. The doctors and judges were so sure that they knew what was best for him. Perhaps the doctors were right that nothing more could be done for the patient they couldn’t even diagnose. The judge may well have been right that the law affords Alfie’s doctors prerogatives that by rights ought to belong to his parents. If ever there was a bond that proclaimed the truth of natural right and authority, it is that of parents to their children.

Are there just individuals and their interests – and the state employing experts to instruct the former in regard to the latter?

Catholics know better, or we ought to. Pope Francis grasped what was at stake in the Alfie Evans case – meeting Alfie’s father, Tom, and tweeting his steadfast support. Statements from the bishops of England and Wales were mostly of the pastoral-by-way-of-not-taking-sides; in other words, flaccid and perfunctory. Some Catholics – British writer and papal biographer, Austen Ivereigh, for example – were indignant, insisting that protests against the abrogation of parental rights were somehow evidence of libertarian contagion coming from the American Church.

“The contention,” wrote Pope Leo XIII in Rerum novarum, “that the civil government should at its option intrude into and exercise intimate control over the family and the household is a great and pernicious error.” Pope Leo, it should be noted, was neither American nor libertarian.

Again, Pope Leo put it well, “If the citizens, if the families on entering into association and fellowship, were to experience hindrance in a commonwealth instead of help, and were to find their rights attacked instead of being upheld, society would rightly be an object of detestation rather than of desire.”

Alfie Evans was treated – not as a person in full, the son of a father and mother – but as a naked individual whose dignity consists in his “interests,” and who was subject to the ministrations of impersonal forces of the state. The state made itself an object of detestation.


5. Bishops’ point man on religious freedom wants to speak youth’s language. 

By John L. Allen Jr., Crux, April 30, 2018

Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, may well be the nicest and most likeable guy to hold a senior leadership position in the Catholic Church. That “nice guy” factor helps explain why he was elected to lead the U.S. bishops from 2013 to 2016, and also why he now serves as the head of the bishops’ permanent Committee for Religious Liberty.

Each year since 2012, the bishops have dedicated a special period of time to celebrate the value of religious freedom at home and abroad. … For this year, it’s been rechristened as “Religious Freedom Week” and runs for just one week, June 22-29, though always with July 4 in view.

Among other things, Kurtz said this year he wants to focus on reaching out to youth – because, he said, while “people over 60 years of age kind of get it,” nonetheless “younger people today still have to be convinced that there’s really a problem.”

Kurtz: First of all, the precious gift of religious freedom, or religious liberty, is something we can never take for granted. Basically, I would say there are really two major areas. One is when someone is trying to witness to the faith, legitimately, or serve other people with integrity, we want to be there to help them, to defend it, especially if there are difficulties with governmental regulations or laws. That will always be a bit of our bread and butter.

The early days of the committee were almost completely absorbed by helping people such as the Little Sisters of the Poor defend themselves against what we thought was an unfair mandate as part of the HHS regulations [for health care reform]. Even domestically, now I think we’re seeing a broader view. We’re looking at issues regarding pro-life, migration, and across the board in health care.

You’re correct also that we’re looking at the international arena.


6. Vatican to discuss if non-Catholics can take Holy Communion. 

By Associated Press, April 30, 2018, 12:29 PM

Officials from the Vatican’s doctrinal watchdog and leading German churchmen will meet this week to discuss if non-Catholic spouses can receive Holy Communion, the Holy See said Monday.

German cardinals and other prelates will be at the Vatican on Thursday to discuss “possible access to the Eucharist” for non-Catholic Christian spouses. Any such opening could enflame conservative Catholics displeased with what they perceive as Pope Francis’ liberal tilt on some doctrinal issues.

The Vatican said Monday that the meeting’s German participants will include Cardinal Reinhard Marx, who heads the German bishops’ conference, and Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki, archbishop of Cologne.


7. Trump presses Nigerian president on anti-Christian killings. 

By Christopher White, Crux, April 30, 2018

The U.S. State Department has removed the term “reproductive rights” from its annual human rights report, drawing praise from pro-life leaders who say that the phrase had become a thinly veiled reference to abortion.

“‘Reproductive rights’ has long been a euphemism for destroying human life in the womb,” said Lila Rose, founder and president of the pro-life group Live Action.

“A phrase that sounds like empowerment is really only code for the subjugation of preborn children.”

The U.S. Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2017 were released last week, and now feature statistics on “coercion in population control” instead of “reproductive rights.”