1. How one cardinal believes euthanasia can be shown as ‘toxic’

By Catholic News Agency, May 18, 2017, 12:02 AM

Legalized euthanasia must still be fought – and that fight requires a broad argument that can persuade people of all beliefs, Cardinal Gerhard Mueller told a Canadian audience May 15.

Euthanasia is not only wrong in itself, but its legalization creates “toxic and deadly pathologies that disproportionately afflict the weakest members of society,” the cardinal told the Canadian Catholic Bioethics Institute at a gathering at Toronto’s St. Michael’s Cathedral Basilica.

A clear understanding of legal assisted suicide’s individual and social wrongs is needed to persuade Canadians to take the steps to reverse the “dangerous legal error” of the Canadian Supreme Court and Parliament, which recently legalized euthanasia and assisted suicide nationwide.

In Cardinal Mueller’s view, the prudential argument against euthanasia is the most powerful argument in a pluralistic society that can persuade people of all religious beliefs, including those without religious beliefs.

He found an example of such persuasion in early 1990s New York. A commission called the New York Task Force on Life and Law had been convened by then-New York Gov. Mario Cuomo. The commission began its work expecting to recommend legal assisted suicide.

“But when they studied the question carefully and dispassionately, they quickly realized that the toxic and deadly social pathologies that would inevitably accompany legalization were too grave and severe to justify such a course of action,” he said.


2. A scorecard on the issues for looming Francis/Trump summit

By John L. Allen Jr., Crux, May 18, 2017

When Pope Francis and President Donald Trump meet next Wednesday, issues may surface from immigration and climate change to religious freedom and the pro-life agenda. Here’s a scorecard of where the two leaders may clash, where they may find a meeting of minds, and why both may turn out to be surprisingly complicated.

1. Immigration
Net/Net: Disagree

In terms of detail, however, there are developments on both sides suggesting that some of the edge, at least, could be taken off the clash.

On Francis’s side, he couched his broad pro-migrant and refugee stance with some doses of realism during a press conference at the end of his trip to Sweden last October.

“Those who govern must also exercise prudence,” he said. “They should be very open to receiving [migrants and refugees], but they should also calculate how they will be able to settle them, because a refugee must not only be welcomed, but also integrated.

That said, there’s little doubt Francis would err on the side of welcome vis-à-vis prudential judgments on immigration policy, while Trump would go with caution.

2. Climate Change
Net/Net: Disagree

Pope Francis is the moral leader of the global push for action against climate change, having become the first-ever pope to devote an entire encyclical letter to the care of creation in 2015’s Laudato Si’.

Francis was a major source of inspiration for the Paris climate change agreement that Trump has said he may abandon, although the administration recently delayed that decision until after the G7 summit later this month that’s bringing Trump to Italy.

Trump has repeatedly voiced skepticism about global warming and climate change, famously calling it a “very expensive hoax,” but his policies on the subject seem in flux. U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, for instance, recently signed a document called the “Fairbanks Declaration” terming climate change a “serious threat” to the Arctic, and calling for action to reduce its harmful effects.

It remains to be seen what the next steps in the administration’s approach may be, but the fact that no hard-and-fast decisions have yet been taken may at least create the opportunity for Francis to practice some moral suasion with his guest on Wednesday.

3. Anti-Poverty Efforts
Net/Net: Disagree

When Francis began his papacy, he described his dream as leading a “poor church for the poor.” Around the world, he’s known as a champion of the downtrodden and impoverished. As a result, it’s hard to imagine he’d find much to like when he looks at early moves by the Trump administration with regard to anti-poverty efforts.

In the first budget proposal Trump submitted to Congress, he envisioned eliminating health care subsidies for low-income Americans, wiping out Community Development Block Grants, eliminating funding for Puerto Rico’s Medicaid program, and slashing funding for college readiness programs for poor Americans such as TRIO and GEAR UP.

To be sure, Francis is not going to sit across the table from Trump and ask what his intentions are for food stamps – that’s a level of specificity to which popes do not descend. However, he may well urge generosity for the poor, and even at that generic level, such language would likely not be construed as an endorsement of Trump’s spending priorities.

4. Religious Freedom
Net/Net: Agree

Pope Francis is an advocate of religious freedom, including a right of conscientious objection based on religious conviction, which he’s described as a “basic human right.” When he came to the United States in September 2015, Francis called religious freedom “one of America’s most precious possessions.

Given that, Francis and his Vatican aides no doubt will have broadly appreciative things to say about the recent executive order on religious freedom issues by Trump, especially his pledge that the contraceptive mandate imposed by the Obama administration as part of health care reform will be lifted.

During that same U.S. trip, Francis made a surprise visit to a community of the Little Sisters of the Poor, in a clear show of support for their struggle against that mandate.

5. Pro-Life Issues
Net/Net: Agree

As compared to the Obama administration, Trump so far has been seen in far more favorable terms by most pro-life leaders.

Pope Francis, obviously, is deeply committed to the pro-life cause, having defined abortion as a “horrific” crime, and routinely listing the unborn among the victims of what he calls a “throw-away culture.”

6. Persecuted Christians
Net/Net: Agree

Candidate Trump vowed to make the protection of persecuted Christians in the Middle East a foreign policy priority for the United States, while Pope Francis repeatedly has expressed anxiety over the fate of Christians in the region. In principle, therefore, this ought to be an area where the two leaders can find common ground.

However, there are two wrinkles that could complicate the picture.

The first is that, once again, the administration’s policies are a moving picture, influenced in part by political reality.

The second problem is that Trump and Francis may have differing visions of what protecting persecuted Christians means.

To take one example, Trump in April executed a course reversal on Syria, authorizing the firing of 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles on an airbase controlled by the Syrian government after reports that President Bashar al-Assad had used chemical weapons. In general, Trump now seems inclined to use U.S. leverage to try to force Assad out.

Christian leaders in the country, however, are extremely dubious of such efforts, fearing that whatever follows Assad would be much worse for the country’s religious minorities.

Francis might argue that protecting Christians includes taking their concerns into account when crafting foreign policy and military decisions. It’s not entirely clear, at least for the moment, how receptive Trump and his team may be to that message.


3. President Trump, don’t meet with Sudan’s Bashir

By Melinda Henneberger, The Kansas City Star, May 17, 2017, 6:27 PM, Opinion

In Sudan’s remote Nuba Mountains, where Muslims and Christians live in peace with one another but can’t remember a time when they weren’t under attack from their own barrel-bombing, Osama-harboring Islamist government in Khartoum, Donald Trump’s election seemed like a rare reason to celebrate.

His tough talk on terror was so bracing, people I met in Nuba told me when I traveled there in February. And no way, they said, would he sell them out as Barack Obama had when he temporarily lifted sanctions against Sudan, in return for a cease-fire they knew better than to trust and cooperation on ISIS from their oppressor, Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, a war criminal wanted by the International Criminal Court for genocide and crimes against humanity.

If Trump meets with him anyway, even as part of a group, he’ll send the message that we are indifferent to human rights abuses and don’t care what Bashir does in Darfur or in the Nuba people’s gorgeous but pockmarked South Kordofan province. And Trump is not expected to reimpose the sanctions lifted by Obama.

President Trump, you should know that Bashir, too, uses chemical weapons, and he has put these brave, resilient people through suffering I so wish you could see for yourself. Please don’t further embolden the monster who makes them take cover in caves. Do that, and you make their faith in you ridiculous.


4. Justice tells seminary grads religious liberty under threat By Associated Press

May 17, 2017, 2:32 PM

Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito has told graduates at a historic Roman Catholic seminary near Philadelphia freedom of religion and freedom of speech are essential to a democracy and are under threat in the United States.

Alito made the remarks during Wednesday’s ceremony at the Saint Charles Borromeo (bor-oh-MAY’-oh) Seminary near Wynnewood.