1. In Nicaragua, Daniel Ortega bends to Catholic Church. 

By Christopher Sherman, Associated Press, May 16, 2018, 2:38 AM

On a recent Sunday, Managua’s auxiliary Roman Catholic Bishop Silvio Baez talked to those gathered for Mass about love and its many forms.

It soon became clear that Baez wasn’t speaking just to the 300 people sitting on plastic chairs in the sweltering heat, but also to President Daniel Ortega.

Dozens of young protesters had been killed in several days of clashes with police and the president’s supporters, during protests set off by proposed social security cuts but that then veered into calls for Ortega to step aside after a decade in power.

So began the latest turn in a 40-year dance between Nicaragua’s predominant religion and Ortega, the former Marxist guerrilla who once infuriated the Vatican but gradually forged an alliance with the church.

The protests, which have continued on a smaller scale, have forced Ortega into a corner and he has asked for the church to mediate. Talks were scheduled to begin Wednesday after the president agreed, at least initially, to meet the church’s conditions, one of which is to “review Nicaragua’s political system from its roots to achieve an authentic democracy.”

Ortega controls the national police and military, while the supreme court and congress strongly lean his way. Opponents accuse him of tilting the electoral field in his favor. But the protests led by students and supported by the business community and the Catholic Church are posing the greatest threat to his government since he won the 2006 election and returned to power 16 years after losing it.


2. Twisting the truth about abortion. 

By Lila Rose, Lila Rose is the president and founder of the national pro-life organization Live Action, The Washington Times, May 16, 2018, Pg. B4

Recently, an editor at parenting website Romper made the stunning accusation that the pro-life movement wants to see pregnant women die.

In her piece, “Why supporting abortion is a pro-life position,” Danielle Campoamor declares that supporting pro-life laws that protect innocent life in the womb is a form of violence against women.

Ms. Campoamor’s attack on pro-lifers comes as Iowa’s governor recently signed into law the “heartbeat bill,” which bans abortion after a baby’s heartbeat is detected. With current technology, that’s about six weeks into a pregnancy.

Ms. Campoamor asserts that to advocate for such a law isn’t pro-life because protecting children in the womb will lead to “a nation of back alleys and contorted clothes hangers” and the deaths of thousands of women a year. That’s a horrific thought, but it’s also a myth.

This myth has been around since the days leading up to Roe v. Wade, when, to win public and court opinion to legalize abortion, advocates claimed that thousands of women were dying each year from illegal abortions.

Dr. Bernard Nathanson, one of the leading voices for legalized abortion and the co-founder of NARAL, admitted that he and his colleagues made it up. In his 1979 book, “Aborting America,” Dr. Nathanson wrote, “How many deaths were we talking about when abortion was illegal? In NARAL, we generally emphasized the frame of the individual case, not the mass statistics, but when we spoke of the latter, it was always 5,000 to 10,000 deaths a year. I confess that I knew that the figures were totally false.”

In reality, in the year prior to Roe, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s abortion surveillance reports showed that 39 women died from illegal abortions — while 24 died from legal abortions.

While any death is tragic, the mortality misinformation continues to be pushed by the abortion industry over 40 years later.

And to Ms. Campoamor’s claim that if the United States restricts abortion, we will go back to illegal “back alley” or “clothes hanger” abortions, former Planned Parenthood President Alan Guttmacher made it clear even before Roe that a majority of those who performed illegal abortions were trained physicians: “Seventy per cent of the illegal abortions in the country are performed by reputable physicians,” he said in 1967. Others put the percentage in the 80s.

Working against the abortion industry’s fake statistics are some real ones: Poland, Ireland and Malta ban most abortions, yet World Bank statistics show that all three nations have lower maternal mortality rates than the United States. And a groundbreaking study in 2012 revealed that outlawing most abortions in Chile in 1989 actually decreased maternal mortality.

But just as critical as debunking misinformation about mortality rates, is remembering that abortion is not health care. Poisoning, starving, dismembering, or suctioning a preborn child to death isn’t health care. It is the taking of an innocent human life.


3. Taiwanese bishops discuss China deal and papal visit with Pope Francis. 

By Andrea Gagliarducci, Crux, May 16, 2018

Pope Francis discussed the state of the Church with Taiwan’s bishops this week, while assuring them that episcopal appointments in China will remain the purview of the Holy See.

A small group of seven Taiwanese bishops met with Francis for their ad limina visit May 14. During the visit, the Taiwanese bishops invited the pope to visit the country on the occasion of the National Eucharistic Congress, scheduled to take place next March.

“The pope did not say yes or no, but he smiled,” Archbishop Hung Shan-chuan of Taipei told Catholic News Agency.

A papal visit to Taiwan has already been proposed. Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen officially forwarded the pope an invitation to visit the country via Cardinal Peter Turkson, who was in Taiwan in September 2017 for the International Congress of the Apostleship of the Sea.

Hung noted that “a possible diplomatic agreement between China and the Holy See…would mean breaking relations with Taiwan.”

“There is a strong interaction between Taiwan and the Holy See,” he added.


4. The Holy See, China, and Evangelization. 

By George Weigel, First Things, May 16, 2018

In a recent interview, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Secretary of State of the Holy See, suggested that certain critics of a deal between the Vatican and the People’s Republic of China were misconstruing the Holy See’s motivations: “There are those who’ve accused us of only wanting diplomatic relations as a sign of some sort of success. But the Holy See, as the pope has said many times, is not interested in diplomatic successes.”

It’s just possible that, among other things, His Eminence had in mind an online article I published at Foreign Policy.com this past February. There, I argued that the decades-long passion of some Vatican diplomats for securing diplomatic relations with the PRC reflected an outmoded view of the Holy See’s role in world affairs, in which the Vatican is imagined to be a third-tier power trying to punch above its weight (as the cardinal secretary of state of Pius VII, Ercole Consalvi, did at the Congress of Vienna in 1815). That is no longer the case, I suggested, for the only real power the Holy See can deploy in twenty-first-century world politics is the power of moral witness and argument. That moral authority is compromised, and the life of the Church under totalitarian or authoritarian regimes is weakened, when deals are made by the Vatican that concede far too much authority in Church affairs to communist regimes.

So the issue here is not an untoward eagerness for diplomatic success; the issue is one of confusing diplomatic accomplishment with evangelical achievement. And that gets me to the oft-repeated nub of my critique of the putative deal between the Vatican and the People’s Republic of China: Any arrangement by which the Chinese communist authorities are conceded a significant role in the appointment of Catholic bishops will weaken the Church’s evangelical possibilities—today, and especially in the China of the future. Kowtowing to communists is bad for achieving a full reconciliation among the currently divided factions in the Catholic Church in China. But first and foremost, it is bad for mission and evangelization, now and in the future.

The communist regime in China is inherently unstable, despite what appears on the surface to be a successful, alternative model of development. Chinese communism will not rule China forever. And when a post-communist China finally opens itself fully to the world, China will become the greatest field of Christian mission since the Europeans came to the western hemisphere in the sixteenth century.

A Catholicism that has become identified with a discarded communist regime, because the Vatican once conceded the communists a significant role in the Church’s internal life, will be at a grave evangelical disadvantage in the post-communist China of the future, where evangelical Protestants and Mormons will be very, very active.


5. Why Vatican won’t be joining U.S. on Jerusalem’s Embassy Row. 

By John L. Allen Jr., Crux, May 16, 2018

Among several controversial aspects of Monday’s transfer of the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem was the presence at the dedication ceremony of two high-profile American Evangelical pastors: John Hagee, founder of Christians United for Israel, and Robert Jeffress, a Dallas-based Southern Baptist and major Trump supporter.

Regardless of what one makes of either minister, their presence at Monday’sdedication reflects the ardent support of the Evangelical community in America for both Israel and Trump, with 80 percent of white Evangelicals having backed the president in 2016.

Notably, however, there were no Catholic dignitaries on Monday’s line-up – no American Catholic leaders, no members of the local Christian community in the Holy Land, and certainly not Archbishop Leopoldo Girelli, the pope’s ambassador to Israel, whose embassy remains firmly ensconced in Tel Aviv. No Catholic gave a blessing, and no prominent Catholic figure was heard endorsing the move.

However much Evangelicals and Catholics in America may have grown close in recent decades, the Israeli/Palestinian conflict remains one area in which Catholic officialdom simply isn’t on board.

St. John Paul II, for instance, was widely perceived as a friend of Judaism and of Israel. Yet it irritated Israelis that he also met PLO leader Yasser Arafat 12 times, treating him as a serious statesman rather than the gun-toting thug most Israelis perceived him to be.

That stance has continued under Francis, who was among the first world leaders to speak out against the embassy move when Trump announced it last December.

There are many factors accounting for the Vatican’s outlook, beginning with the fact that its points of reference are 1947 and 1948 UN resolutions calling for a special international status for Jerusalem. Vatican diplomats at the time played a key role in having that language inserted, counting on the support of the “Catholic countries” of Europe.

Jerusalem was envisioned as a corpus separatum, a place apart, though that plan was never implemented on the ground. The Vatican has softened its stance over the years, looking for vaguer “international guarantees,” but still sees the UN resolutions as the de jure starting point.

In terms of cultural background, it’s also true that the default setting for most Vatican diplomats isn’t the thought world of the U.S. but the EU.

Future Vatican envoys in the Accademia, Rome’s prestigious training ground for papal diplomats, generally attended the same schools, read the same books, and moved in the same social circles as their secular European counterparts, and they absorb much of the same worldview. Mainstream European sentiment isn’t as pro-Israel as in America, where that stance often seems axiomatic.

Moreover, the Vatican sees itself as the world’s smallest state and thus feels a natural affinity for other small states, especially when the perception is that a major world power – in this case, the United States through its support of Israel – has that small state at a disadvantage.

The fundamental reason for the fact that Evangelicals and Catholic leaders often think differently, however, is that Catholics have skin in the game in the form of a meaningful Christian population.

For all those reasons, at least one thing seems fairly certain on the unstable landscape of today’s Middle East: The Vatican won’t be joining the U.S. on “embassy row” in Jerusalem anytime soon.


6. Pope warns bloodshed in Gaza hurts peace: ‘War begets war’. 

By Associated Press, May 16, 2018, 5:06 AM

Pope Francis warned Wednesday that the latest spasm of violence in the Holy Land is only hurting chances for peace, and called for revived efforts at dialogue and justice.

Francis said he was “very worried and pained” at the bloodshed and expressed his “great pain for the dead and wounded” and all those who suffer. Leading thousands of people in prayer Wednesday at the end of his weekly general audience, he said the use of violence can never bring about peace.

“War begets war, violence begets violence,” he said.


7. Chile archbishop defends himself as pope’s summit opens. 

By Nicole Winfield, Associated Press, May 15, 2018, 1:41 PM

The retired archbishop of Santiago is denying he covered-up for an abusive priest in Chile, but is acknowledging the priest’s popularity and ability to produce seminarians weighed on his decision-making.

Cardinal Javier Errazuriz wrote a letter May 10 to his fellow bishops denouncing the “defamation” he has been subject to and defending his handling of the case at the center of Chile’s sex abuse and cover-up scandal. That scandal is at the heart of an emergency summit between Pope Francis and 34 bishops that began Tuesday to try to map a recovery strategy from the crisis that has discredited the Chilean church and tarnished Francis’ own reputation.

In Errazuriz’s letter, obtained by The Associated Press, the emeritus archbishop insisted that he was only following church law in waiting so long to launch an investigation into the Rev. Fernando Karadima. Only in 2009, some five years after he received the first complaint, did he start the process.


8. Nation’s most restrictive abortion law is challenged in Iowa. 

By Barbara Rodriguez, Associated Press, May 15, 2018, 6:18 PM

A lawsuit challenging the nation’s most restrictive abortion law was filed Tuesday in Iowa, a state that for years was largely left out of Republican efforts to overturn abortion protections and where the Democratic attorney general has refused to defend the law.

If allowed to take effect on July 1 as planned, the law would ban most abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected, around the sixth week of pregnancy. Abortion-rights groups say that’s a time when many women do not know they are pregnant.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa and the Planned Parenthood Federation of America announced the filing of the complaint in Polk County District Court in Des Moines. The lawsuit argues that the law violates the Iowa Constitution by banning nearly all abortions and putting women’s health at risk. It seeks an injunction to halt the law’s implementation. Litigation could take years.


9. California’s assisted suicide law overturned. 

By Angelus News, May 15, 2018

Riverside Superior Court Judge Daniel Ottolia has overturned the state’s assisted suicide law, ruling that the “End of Life Act does not fall within the scope of access to healthcare services.” 

The Act was first introduced during a special session of legislature convened by Governor Jerry Brown to tackle healthcare issues, such as Medicaid funding and in-home health options. 

Governor Brown signed the bill into law in 2016, making it legal for doctors and physicians to prescribe lethal drugs to terminally ill patients who want to end their lives. 

But motions filed by Life Legal argued that the legislation should not have been passed as part of the special session, as physician-assisted suicide “has nothing to do with the provision of healthcare services.”

Attorney General Xavier Becerra has five days to appeal today’s decision.