1. Trump tells anti-abortion activists to stay united for 2020.

By Darlene Superville, The Associated Press, May 19, 2019, 10:55 PM

President Donald Trump distanced himself from Alabama’s restrictive new abortion law by laying out differing personal views even as he urged anti-abortion activists to stay united heading into the 2020 election.

In a series of tweets about abortion, Trump did not state whether he was for or against the Alabama law, which forbids the procedure in almost all circumstances, including cases of rape and incest.

Trump tweeted late Saturday that gains by anti-abortion activists will “rapidly disappear” if, as he put it, “we are foolish and do not stay UNITED as one.”

Trump tweeted that “We have come very far” on the anti-abortion front in the two-plus years since he took office, noting the addition of more than 100 conservative federal judges and two Supreme Court justices “and a whole new & positive attitude about the Right to Life.”


2. Heartbeat laws pose dilemma to Hollywood, Celebrity boycott calls slow to gain traction.

By Valerie Richardson, The Washington Times, May 20, 2019, Pg. A1

Calls by stars and activists to boycott red states like Alabama, Georgia and Kentucky over their tough new abortion restrictions so far have failed to catch fire, with only a handful of businesses and state officials heeding the cry.

With the abortion bills, however, boycotters may have overreached. Unlike North Carolina, which acted alone, eight states this year have approved legislation narrowing the window on abortion, led by the fetal heartbeat bills, which prohibit procedures after a heartbeat can be detected, or about six weeks.

It’s one thing to boycott one state; it’s another to whip up outrage against one-sixth of the nation.


3. Church’s silent witness can cut through the rocks of politics, culture.

By John L. Allen Jr., Editor, Crux, May 20, 2019

Two things happened in Italy over the weekend, one of which was big, loud and widely covered, the other small and essentially unnoticed. Taken together, they illustrate something about the Church’s silent political and cultural impact, as opposed to its noisy public advocacy.

We’re not talking here about bishops’ statements, press conferences or papal encyclicals. Instead, this is about the effect over time on a culture of the Church’s daily life, a bit like the Colorado River once cut through layers of rock over centuries to carve out the Grand Canyon.

On Saturday, Italian Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini hosted a major rally in Milan ahead of European elections next week, joined by Marine Le Pen, leader of France’s Nationalist Party, and a slew of other far-right, anti-immigrant political forces from 11 countries, including Germany’s Alternative for Germany (AfD) and the Dutch anti-Islam Freedom Party (PVV).

Right now, polls show Salvini’s populist alliance poised to gain either the third or fourth largest number of seats in the European Parliament, though that number could go up if Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s Fidesz party decides to sign on. That’s entirely possible, since Orban has hailed Salvini as “the most important person in Europe today.”

Yet at the grassroots, silently and without any fuss, the daily practice of the Catholic Church in Italy is a sign of contradiction. Up and down this country, you’ll find priests and religious from Africa, Asia and Latin America leading faith communities, heading Catholic organizations and otherwise showing that “the other” can not only survive in this culture but thrive.


4. Beneath Anti-Abortion ‘Wave,’ Undercurrents of Activist Networks.

By Elizabeth Dias, Sabrina Tavernise and Alan Blinder, The New York Times, May 19, 2019, Pg. A17

State after state is passing sweeping abortion restrictions this year, from Alabama’s near total abortion ban, to Ohio’s ban after a fetal heartbeat is detected, to Utah’s ban after a pregnancy reaches 18 weeks. Already, eight states have passed laws that could challenge federal protections for abortion, with more on the way, prompting jubilation on the right and fear on the left.

The laws may appear to present a united front and a coordinated political campaign. Instead they reflect a sustained effort by a network of disparate activists, each with their own strategy honed over decades of work.

The anti-abortion movement, built over nearly five decades, is closer than it has ever been to its long-held dream of dismantling Roe v. Wade, the landmark ruling that legalized abortion nationwide.


5. Religious Dads Can Put the Kids to Bed, Too.

By W. Bradford Wilcox, Jason S. Carroll and Laurie DeRose, The New York Times, May 19, 2019, Pg. SR9
The authors are collaborators on a new report about marriage, faith and families.

“Blue” marriages are better — or at least that is the conventional wisdom. Couples who live according to egalitarian values, sharing domestic responsibilities like housework and cooking, have long been seen as superior by most academics, journalists and public intellectuals engaged in the national conversation about the American family.

But consider Anna and Greg, a couple that one of us (Mr. Wilcox) recently interviewed for a book on marriage. When Anna started having children, she had no wish to work full time outside the home. Anna is not alone in this regard: The Pew Research Center reported in 2013 that about two-thirds of married mothers would prefer not to work full time — a fact that is often overlooked in our public conversation about work and family, which is heavily influenced by progressive assumptions. Anna says she is grateful that because Greg works hard at his small business, she has been able to make this choice.

It turns out that feminism and faith both have high expectations of husbands and fathers, if for very different ideological reasons, and that both result in higher-quality marriages for women. This is a key conclusion of our new report, “The Ties That Bind: Is Faith a Global Force for Good or Ill in the Family?” from the Institute for Family Studies and the Wheatley Institution. The report looks at relationship quality for women in heterosexual relationships across 11 countries in the developed world, including the United States.

In this way, at least, the arc of American family life in the 21st century has indeed bent toward a better and brighter place. But for all the arguments between feminism and faith, it turns out that both have had a hand in sustaining and enriching today’s marriages by turning, as the prophet Malachi put it, “the hearts of the fathers to their children.”


6. How the new archbishop can restore trust.

By Tim Busch, The Washington Post, May 19, 2019, Pg. C4, Local Opinion
Tim Busch is founder of the Napa Institute, a Catholic lay apostolate that advocates for church reform.

Catholics are excited for the new head of the church in the nation’s capital. Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory, who will be installed as the leader of the Archdiocese of Washington on May 21, is widely recognized as a principled reformer who seeks the truth and does what’s right. That kind of leadership is desperately needed after a year of disturbing revelations and scandals about senior church leaders, especially ex-cardinal Theodore McCarrick.

 Catholics have more questions than answers about McCarrick’s actions and the church’s response to (and knowledge of) them. Over the past year, the archdiocese has said little about its internal workings and the handling of accusations, largely telling the media that it either knew nothing about specific allegations or had found no relevant documents in its records. Gregory could let Catholics review all relevant records to verify the church’s claims.

If this isn’t possible, Gregory could empower a lay review board — composed primarily of Catholics who are not church officials or employees — to analyze the records and summarize their findings.

 Finally, Washington’s new archbishop could institute concrete reforms to hold bishops accountable, building on his work on the Dallas Charter. He need only look at the pioneering work done by Archbishop William E. Lori in nearby Baltimore.

In November, that archdiocese gave lay review boards oversight over accusations against bishops, something no Catholic jurisdiction had done up to that point. Baltimore’s lay review boards now can investigate accusations of sexual abuse against minors and adults as well as claims of cover ups by bishops. 


7. Pope pays tribute to slain journalists.

By Associated Press, The Washington Post, May 19, 2019, Pg. A19

Pope Francis paid tribute on Saturday to journalists killed while doing their jobs, saying media freedom is a key indicator of a country’s health.

“I listened in pain to the statistics about your colleagues killed while carrying out their work with courage and dedication in so many countries to report on what is happening in wars and other dramatic situations in which so many of our brothers and sisters in the world live,” he said in an address to the Foreign Press Association in Italy.

In an apparent reference to the media’s role in investigating the Roman Catholic Church’s sexual abuse crisis, Francis said: “The church holds you in esteem, also when you put your finger in a wound, even if the wound is in the church community.” 


8. Where accused blasphemers wait on death row, A recent acquittal has given detainees cause for hope in Pakistan, where punishments for blasphemy are exceptionally harsh.

By Pamela Constable, The Washington Post, May 19, 2019, Pg. A19

One prisoner is an illiterate Christian street cleaner who got into an argument with a Muslim friend while they were out drinking. Another is a U.S.-trained university professor whose liberal Facebook posts upset Islamist student activists. 

 A third is a middle-aged woman who occupies the cell vacated by Asia Bibi, the Pakistani field hand who was sentenced to death for blasphemy in 2010 and acquitted by the Pakistan Supreme Court twice. She was allowed to leave for Canada this month after spending nearly a decade on death row.

These three Pakistanis are among 40 imprisoned on blasphemy charges or convictions. About half are serving life terms, and half have been sentenced to death. Pakistan has never executed anyone for blasphemy, but many convicts are held in solitary confinement for years while awaiting appeals. 

Bibi’s acquittal and welcome abroad have given other longterm detainees cause for hope, but their lawyers and family members say it is a slim one. Accused blasphemers are reviled by the public, few lawyers are willing to represent them, and lower courts are pressured to convict. Appeals courts often commute death sentences to life terms, but only after years of tension, isolation and often declining health. 


9. Children are paying for 19th-century bigotry.

By George F. Will, The Washington Post, May 19, 2019, Pg. A23, Opinion

In 2015, in order “to provide parental and student choice in education” from grades K-12, Montana’s lawmakers enacted legislation providing a small tax credit of up to $150 for individuals and businesses donating to private, nonprofit scholarship organizations that award scholarships for children to attend private schools, a program similar to those in 18 states. However, Montana’s Department of Revenue quickly issued a rule forbidding recipients from using their scholarships at religious schools.

Montana’s Supreme Court has upheld this rule, which cripples an organization called Big Sky Scholarships.

The petitioners argued in Montana’s Supreme Court that the Blaine Amendment is not applicable to Big Sky Scholarships because it applies only to public funds, not private donations, which are not transformed into public funds merely because they — like most charitable contributions — are incentivized by a provision of the tax code.

In a 2000 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court noted that in Blaine Amendments such as Montana’s, “it was an open secret that ‘sectarian’ was code for ‘Catholic.’ ” So, beyond the deceptively bland text of Montana’s Blaine Amendment, the Supreme Court should again recognize the context of its origin — the 19th century’s “pervasive” (the court’s 2000 language) anti-Catholic animus that continues inflicting harm in the 21st century.


10. Women’s advocate calls widows ‘hidden victims’ of China one-child policy.

By Elise Harris, Crux, May 19, 2019

Longtime women’s rights activist Reggie Littlejohn, known for opposing selective abortions in China targeting females, is speaking out for another group of women she says are among the most destitute in the nation’s aging population: Widows.

“These women are what I would call the unseen victims of the one-child policy,” Littlejohn said in an interview with Crux, adding, “people don’t realize the extent to which the one-child policy completely decimated the family structure of China.”

Littlejohn, a Catholic who founded the “Women’s Rights Without Frontiers” organization to fight forced abortion and gendercide in China, launched a new “Save a Widow” project to help abandoned elderly women make ends meet and to give them a sense of purpose.

According to statistics from the U.S. State Department, some 590 women a day kill themselves in China, and many others attempt suicide. In the countryside, three times more women kill themselves as men.

In China, senior suicide rates have risen 500 percent over the past 20 years, Littlejohn said, explaining that this spike is a direct result of the Chinese government’s one-child, and now two-child, policy.


11. When Turkey Destroyed Its Christians, From 1894 to 1924, a staggered campaign of genocide targeted not just the region’s Armenians but its Greek and Assyrian communities as well.

By Benny Morris and Dror Ze’evi, The Wall Street Journal, May 18, 2019, Pg. C4

Between 1894 and 1924, the number of Christians in Asia Minor fell from some 3-4 million to just tens of thousands—from 20% of the area’s population to under 2%. Turkey has long attributed this decline to wars and the general chaos of the period, which claimed many Muslim lives as well. But the descendants of Turkey’s Christians, many of them dispersed around the world since the 1920s, maintain that the Turks murdered about half of their forebears and expelled the rest.

The Christians are correct. Our research verifies their claims: Turkey’s Armenian, Greek and Assyrian (or Syriac) communities disappeared as a result of a staggered campaign of genocide beginning in 1894, perpetrated against them by their Muslim neighbors. By 1924, the Christian communities of Turkey and its adjacent territories had been destroyed.

The bloodshed was importantly fueled throughout by religious animus. Muslim Turks—aided by fellow Muslims, including Kurds, Circassians, Chechens and Arabs—murdered about two million Christians in bouts of slaughter immediately before, during and after World War I. These massacres were organized by three successive governments, those of the Ottoman Sultan Abdulhamid II, the Young Turks and, finally, Atatürk. These governments also expelled between 1.5 and 2 million Christians, mostly to Greece.


12. Justices Face Test on Abortion, Will state restrictions on procedure lead a more conservative court to revisit Roe?

By Brent Kendall and Jess Bravin, The Wall Street Journal, May 18, 2019, Ag. A3

Sweeping state-level abortion restrictions present a direct test of whether the Supreme Court is willing to revisit Roe v. Wade, the landmark abortion-rights precedent that has spurred deep divisions for nearly 50 years.

States with antiabortion legislative majorities have long been weighing how to prompt a Supreme Court review of the 1973 ruling, but generally have preferred a strategy aimed at reducing the procedure’s availability through incremental restrictions that hamper providers, or by forbidding late-term abortions.

 Even if the court’s conservatives expect that, as Mr. Trump predicted in 2016, Roe will be overruled, there are reasons to doubt such a decision would come before the 2020 election.

In other areas on the conservative agenda, such as curbing the influence of organized labor or reducing federal oversight of voting rights, Chief Justice Roberts has preferred to move in incremental steps. 


13. Unconstitutional but still dangerous, Antiabortion laws such as Alabama’s open up a new front in the nation’s battle over reproductive rights.

The Washington Post, May 18, 2019, Pg. A16, Editorial

So extreme — to the point of cruelty — is the measure that some national Republican leaders are trying to distance themselves from it. So patently unconstitutional is the measure that it is unlikely to ever take effect or, as its architects hope, be taken up by the Supreme Court.

It’s always dangerous to predict what the court might do, but many observers think it’s more likely the court would act incrementally, taking and ruling on cases that undermine the right to abortion rather than toppling 50 years of precedent with one stroke. But either scenario would be a dangerous step backward, which is yet another reason the elections next year for the White House and Congress are so critical.


14. Pope urges foreign media to use power of press to seek truth.

By The Associated Press, May 18, 2019, 12:15 PM

Pope Francis urged foreign correspondents on Saturday to humbly use the power of the press to search for the truth and give voice to the voiceless, saying journalism is an important tool to counter the hatred, prejudice and fake news.

In an audience with the Foreign Press Association in Rome, Francis also urged journalists to not fall prey to sending click-bait headlines and half-reported stories, saying errors can not only misrepresent the truth but damage entire communities.


15. Motu Proprio Lays Groundwork for Action Against Abuse.

National Catholic Register, May 18, 2019, Editorial

Catholics will mark on June 20 the one-year anniversary of the shocking revelations surrounding former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick. Particularly for Catholics in the United States, that scandal raised a host of deeply disturbing questions — many of which still need answers.

Pope Francis has given a significant response, with the promulgation this month of the apostolic letter Vos Estis Lux Mundi (You Are the Light of the World), but serious additional work remains to be done, both here in the U.S. and across the globe.

In February, the Pope concluded a Vatican summit on abuse with the world’s episcopal conference presidents by noting that we face “a universal problem, tragically present almost everywhere and affecting everyone.”

But the Holy Father also acknowledged that before Church leaders can lead a universal fight against abuse, they first must put their own house in order. “The brutality of this worldwide phenomenon,” he said, “becomes all the more grave and scandalous in the Church, for it is utterly incompatible with her moral authority and ethical credibility.”

The Pope then pledged concrete steps, and his apostolic letter offers some.


16. Abortion extremism in New York and Virginia paved the way for Alabama and Georgia’s laws.

By Kathleen Parker, Washington Post Online, May 17, 2019, 7:44 PM

So, is Alabama really crazy? Is Georgia, which recently passed a “heartbeat bill” banning abortion after the baby’s heartbeat can be detected, usually at around six weeks? 

The question of craziness, meanwhile, depends upon one’s definition of crazy. Is Alabama crazier than New York, where some protections for babies “born” alive during an abortion were recently eliminated, making it easier to end their life if desired by the abortion-seeker?

Is Alabama crazier than Virginia, where Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam seemed to support infanticide back in January when commenting on a proposed bill that would relax some of the state’s abortion restrictions? 

Trying to clarify after the inevitable firestorm, Northam’s office later said that the “discussion” would be regarding medical prognosis and treatment, not ending the life of the newborn. For a physician, Northam seems challenged to express himself medically.

More important is to understand that the extremism of what New York did — and Virginia attempted to do — invited the extremism of Alabama, Georgia and other pro-life states.

 It is ironic, meanwhile, that as pro-life activists radicalize their agenda, abortion rates are in steady decline. Likewise, pro-choicers are radicalizing their agenda as birthrates are no longer sufficient to replace the current population. Whatever transpires in the legal realm, I’ll always wonder how acceptance of destroying the pre-born has affected our humanity. And how many among the more than 60 million Americans aborted since 1973 were destined to shape a better world.

I know. Crazy.


17. Catholic Bishop Challenges Dallas Police Affidavit Accuracy.

By The Associated Press, May 17, 2019

The Roman Catholic bishop of the Dallas diocese has challenged the accuracy of a Dallas police affidavit’s allegations that the diocese had “thwarted” its investigation of past sexual misconduct by priests.

Police used the affidavit to authorize Monday raids on diocesan headquarters, a storage unit it uses and a church office. In the affidavit, police Detective David Clark described a diocese that wasn’t forthcoming with critical files and relied on personnel to identify predatory behavior when they had no background or training to do so.

“The fundamental premise of the affidavit is that because a piece of information discovered in an entirely independent police investigation is not in the diocese’s files, the diocese must have hidden or concealed that information and is continuing to hide or conceal that information, so that it warrants a raid of religious offices,” Burns said in his statement. “… But in reality, the diocese cannot turn over what it does not have.”

Burns said the affidavit had revealed no abusers that hadn’t already been revealed to the diocese, and he defended the expertise of personnel chosen by the diocese to identify predatory behavior.


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