1. Suffer the Little Children, Philadelphia sacrifices Catholic foster services to identity politics. 

By The Wall Street Journal, May 23, 2018, Pg. A14, Editorial

What’s more important—finding a foster home for needy children, or identity politics? The answer from the political left is exacerbating a crisis in Philadelphia that is leaving hundreds of children to languish in group homes.

Catholic Social Services has worked in Philadelphia for decades and oversees about 100 foster homes. But two months ago the city abruptly halted referrals to the group because the Catholic charity holds Catholic beliefs about same-sex marriage. Last week several foster parents represented by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty sued in federal court to resume the group’s foster-care placements.

Catholic Social Services works with children regardless of race, gender or sexual orientation. But on Catholic religious grounds the charity won’t certify same-sex or unmarried couples as foster parents, instead referring them to another state-approved organization. More than two dozen alternative agencies exist, and Catholic Social Services says no gay couples have even sought its help for certification, much less filed a complaint after being turned away.

Philadelphia has nonetheless denounced Catholic Social Services as discriminatory and launched an investigation into its practices. Unless the group agrees to provide written certifications for same-sex foster parents, the city will terminate its contract in June.

As the lawsuit notes, the real discrimination here is religious. Philadelphia is penalizing Catholic Social Services because its beliefs about marriage don’t mesh with progressive cultural values. To protect the city’s conscience, Philadelphia demands that Catholics violate their own. Who is really intolerant here?


2. Catholic Church Faces a Fight Over Gay Blessings. 

By  Francis X. Rocca, The Wall Street Journal, May 23, 2018, A16

Reports that Pope Francis told a sex-abuse victim that God made him gay have drawn headlines this week, with many observers inferring a new level of acceptance of homosexuality, which the catechism of the Catholic Church describes as “objectively disordered.”

Conservatives have been prompt to argue that Pope Francis’ statements on homosexuality, confirmed or otherwise, don’t conflict with church teaching or suggest toleration of homosexual acts, but simply reflect the basic Christian message of God’s love for all people.

Yet the pope’s stance has encouraged a greater openness to homosexuality among the church’s hierarchy, leading to calls for the appreciation not just of gay people but of gay relationships. That trend is straining any appearance of a consensus on the subject within the church.

More recently, several bishops in Belgium and Germany have openly called for allowing priests to bless couples in committed same-sex relationships.

Pope Francis has shown a willingness to let different parts of the world-wide church go their own way on important matters, including how to translate the Mass into local languages and whether to allow divorced people in second marriages to receive Communion. This month, the pope indicated that it was up to the German bishops conference to decide whether to allow some Protestants to receive Communion in Catholic churches in Germany.

As more governments around the world legalize same-sex marriage, the Catholic Church’s internal debate over whether to recognize such unions—and if so, how—is likely to get only more intense and fractious.


3. Facebook Tips the Scales in Ireland’s Abortion Referendum, The social-media giant deals a last-minute blow to the campaign against repealing restrictions. 

By Marcel de la Cruz, Father de la Cruz is a Catholic priest based in Ireland and co-founder of FrontPage.org, The Wall Street Journal, May 23, 2018, Pg. A15, Opinion

Facebook announced on May 8 that it would take it upon itself to monitor the Republic of Ireland’s May 25 referendum on abortion by banning all ads on the topic from foreign groups.

The announcement featured plenty of incongruities. Facebook claimed that helping “protect the integrity of elections and referendums from undue influence” was “an issue we have been thinking about for some time.” But the social-media giant injected itself into a fierce debate over repealing Ireland’s constitutional ban on abortion only 17 days before the vote. If the company indeed had a longstanding concern about election integrity, it should have announced its change of policy before the debate got started.

The truth is the Irish government and many in the traditional media have grown concerned that voters will reject their push for legalized abortion. Social mediais one of the few avenues of public outreach left to those who oppose repeal of the Irish Constitution’s pro-life Eighth Amendment, which voters overwhelmingly approved in 1983.

Facebook also announced in its May 8 statement that it would enlist the fact-checking help of TheJournal.ie, an online newspaper. “Stories rated as false by TheJournal.ie will see their distribution significantly reduced,” the statement said. If TheJournal.ie has a reputation in Ireland, it isn’t for neutrality. A quick look at the site’s Daily Edge section reveals an editorial bias for the pro-repeal “yes” campaign.

As a co-founder of FrontPage.org, a website that has published articles in support of the Eighth Amendment, I have seen firsthand how Facebook puts its thumb on the scale.

It isn’t too late for the company to admit its mistake and reverse its decision. That would truly serve the interest of freedom, fairness and transparency.


4. The Pope Opens His Eyes to Abuse. 

By The New York Times, May 23, 2018, Editorial

The abuse of minors by pedophile priests has been among the most painful sagas of our time, the horror compounded by the knowledge that hierarchs could have stopped the predators if only they had not chosen, for so long, to cover up their actions. Now, at long last, Pope Francis seems to have glimpsed the depth of the global crisis.

The catalyst was a scandal in Chile, one of Latin America’s most staunchly Catholic countries, where for years the church establishment failed to act on multiple complaints of sexual abuse against an influential priest, Fernando Karadima.

It is not yet clear how Pope Francis will handle the mass resignations by the Chilean bishops, as accepting them all would leave the church there leaderless. More important is what he will do to repair the profound damage done to the Catholic Church worldwide by pedophile priests and their enablers. The pope has made a good and welcome start in acknowledging that his bishops did not tell him the truth and in opening his ears and heart to victims who have suffered not only sexual abuse, but also the derision of churchmen they tried to talk to. But it is just a start.


5. Catholic Church Takes a Background Role Ahead of Ireland’s Abortion Vote, Many Irish people have grown resistant to appeals to traditional faith amid a wave of church-related scandals. 

By Paul Hannon and Francis X. Rocca, The Wall Street Journal, May 23, 2018, 8:16 AM

A vote this week on whether to repeal Ireland’s constitutional abortion ban has sparked an emotional debate across the country, on street signs, social mediaand television and radio shows. An anti-abortion group even erected a giant “NO” on a landmark hill on Ireland’s west coast.

But one voice, long dominant in Irish society, has spoken softly this time: the hierarchy of the Catholic Church.

In the U.S., Catholic bishops and priests are prominent figures in the antiabortion movement, appearing at the annual March for Life in Washington and praying in front of abortion clinics. By contrast, Irish clergy have played a generally low-key role, appealing to the faithful to keep the ban through sermons and handouts at Sunday Mass but staying largely out of the public debate.

That reticence reflects an increasing public resistance to appeals to traditional faith, partly due to a wave of church-related scandals, ranging from clerical child abuse to church-run homes for unmarried mothers, where many were forced to give up their children for adoption.


6. Pope to China Catholics: Make gestures showing communion. 

By Nicole Winfield, Associated Press, May 23, 2018, 6:13 AM

Pope Francis urged Chinese Catholics on Wednesday to show they are in full communion with the Holy See, amid what appears to be another stall in the Vatican’s longstanding attempts to reach a deal with Beijing over bishop nominations.

China’s estimated 12 million Catholics are split between those belonging to the government-backed Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association and an underground church loyal to the pope. These underground priests and parishioners are frequently detained and harassed.


7. Dolan says Pope was ‘conservative, orthodox’ with gay abuse survivor. 

By Christopher White, Crux, May 23, 2018

Pope Francis’s reported comment to a Chilean sexual abuse survivor, “That you are gay doesn’t matter,” has made major headlines in recent days – and on Tuesday, Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York affirmed Francis’s comments, saying “Jesus would have said that.”

“Juan Carlos, that you are gay doesn’t matter,” Francis reportedly told clerical sexual abuse survivor Juan Carlos Cruz. “God made you like this and loves you like this and it doesn’t matter to me. The pope loves you like this, you have to be happy with who you are.”

While the cardinal noted that it was wise to “keep in mind we got it third-hand,” referring to Cruz’s comments, he also said he did not question the veracity of them.

“What he says is beautiful,” Dolan said of Francis’s comments.

“That’s sort of conservative, traditional, Catholic, orthodox teaching. The Catechism insists on that,” he added.

Dolan, it seems, was primarily referring to the first part of Francis’s comments and went on to note that neither he – nor Francis, he believed – would be qualified to weigh in on whether an individual was born gay.

“Even among professional circles, there’s an ongoing debate whether one is born that way or is it nature or nurture,” Dolan said.

Dolan went on to add that “while any sexual expression outside of a man and woman in marriage is contrary to God’s purpose, so is not treating anyone, including a gay person, with anything less than dignity and respect.”


8. Philadelphia’s unnecessary war on Catholics. 

By Kathleen Parker, The Washington Post, May 22, 2018, 7:56 PM

At a time when more than 400,000 children are in foster care nationwide, the city of Philadelphia is threatening to cut ties with Catholic Social Servicesbecause of the group’s policy against placing foster children in same-sex households.

On the surface, one might say this is a classic case of state vs. church: The city must uphold its policies forbidding discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. And CSS must honor Catholic teaching and not place children in LGBTQ households.

On a deeper level, however, the issue cuts right to the core of religious liberty. Although the First Amendment guarantee of religious freedom has always meant that the state couldn’t impose a religion upon its people, secularism would seem to qualify as a religion inasmuch as the state’s policies are really beliefs — articles of faith based upon far less information and experience than the church’s. There’s no dogma like no-dogma, if I may quote myself.

Given the immense good that CSS and other religious charities do, surely there is another way intelligent people in the City of Brotherly Love (and elsewhere) can resolve their differences. The ultimate aim of secularists, of course, isn’t to place foster kids with gay couples or force devout bakers to create wedding cakes for gay weddings but to banish God from the village square. Lest you celebrate too soon, remember: The state is a soulless, ruthless and insatiable machine, and its only purpose is to increase its power and subjugate its citizens for maximum efficiency.

Every time religious liberty is put to the test, freedom holds its breath.


9. Trump wades deeper into abortion politics as midterms loom. 

By Jill Colvin, Associated Press, May 22, 2018, 5:56 PM

President Donald Trump has long been an unlikely sweetheart for conservative and evangelical voters. Now, in the lead-up to the midterm elections, the thrice-married former Democrat who used to describe himself as “very pro-choice” is offering catnip to conservative voters with a new administration push to strip funding from Planned Parenthood and other family planning clinics.

The initiative, announced last week, is aimed at resurrecting parts of a Reagan-era mandate banning federally funded family planning clinics from referring women for abortions, or sharing space with abortion providers.

Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the anti-abortion Susan B. Anthony List, says the move “will help tremendously” in the midterms.

Nonetheless, white evangelical voters overwhelmingly supported Trump in 2016, and that support has only grown. A PRRI survey released last month found white evangelical support for Trump at an all-time high, with 75 percent of those polled holding a favorable view of the president and just 22 percent holding an unfavorable view. Support for Trump within the general population in the poll stood at just 42 percent.

Religious groups like the Catholic Medical Association approve of a series of actions Trump has taken, beginning with his appointment of judges who oppose abortion rights, including Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch, and Trump’s reinstatement of the global “gag rule” that bars federal funding for nongovernmental organizations that provide abortion referrals.

The White House also points to the administration’s support for religious objectors in court and Trump’s efforts to bring religious groups “back into the fold by ensuring religious groups and their partners are critical participants in the policy making process.”

Dannenfelser, whose group works to elect candidates who want to reduce and ultimately end abortion, is planning to raise and spend $25 million this cycle, up from the $18 million the group spent in the lead-up to the 2016 elections.

She said the president’s latest move would play especially well with voters in states like Missouri, where Republican Attorney General Josh Hawley is challenging Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill, one of the Senate’s most vulnerable incumbents, as well as in Indiana and North Dakota, where Republican Rep. Kevin Cramer is challenging Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp.


10. Vatican bank reports profit but says ethics more important. 

By Associated Press, May 22, 2018, 1:25 PM

The Vatican bank says it earned 31.9 million euros in profits last year, down from 36 million euros in 2016, as it works to pursue ethical investments even at the risk of losing money and clients.

The Institute for Religious Works issued its annual report Tuesday showing assets of 5.27 billion euros compared to 5.69 billion last year. Its profits will be turned over to the Holy See.

Cardinal Santos Abril y Castello, who heads the commission of cardinals overseeing the bank, said Pope Francis had made clear he never wants a quest for profit to trump ethics.


11. Movie review: “Pope Francis – A Man of his Word”.

By Andrea Picciotti-Bayer, Andrea Picciotti-Bayer is Legal Advisor for The Catholic Association Foundation, Catholic News Agency, May 22, 2018

Wim Wenders’ new documentary, “Pope Francis – A Man of his Word,” debuted last week and presents the simplicity and humility of the Church as personified in her current visible head here on earth.

The idea for the film came from Dario Edoardo Vigano, a cinephile who until recently led the Vatican’s Office of Communications. The Vatican reached out to award-winning director Wenders, offered the pope’s participation in a series of four interviews, opened the Vatican archives, and then gave Wenders creative license.  

Wenders’ film highlights many of the issues promoted by the Holy Father during these first five years of his pontificate. Numerous one-on-one conversations show the pope’s kind and encouraging direction to show greater concern for the poor, the environment, the bonds of family, and the boundless love of God for each person.

In between these interviews is footage of Pope Francis in action, including his address to the U.S. Congress, his speech to delegates of the United Nations, and numerous greetings to thousands gathered in their home countries during papal visits.  

What makes “Pope Francis – A Man of his Word” such a delight is the interaction between the pope and people. 

Scene after scene captures Francis lovingly tracing the sign of the cross on the foreheads of infants and ailing adults, a papal blessing to be sure, but also an act mirroring what is instinctively done by Catholic mothers and fathers. When he visits the imprisoned, his words of consolation, his humility in washing their feet, and his earnest embraces remind us of the common brotherhood we share and the call to be of service to one another. 

The Catholic Church has consistently expressed concern for the suffering of refugees, the poor, the imprisoned, and the unemployed. And Francis reminds us that we are called to continually rediscover the needs of those around us. As he put it, “Tenderness is not weakness, it is fortitude.”  

“Pope Francis – A Man of his Word” showcases the humility and poverty of the Catholic Church as personified in Pope Francis. It is yet another timely example of the relevance and attractiveness of the Catholic Church for the modern world.