1. In cordial visit, Francis and Trump seek common ground

By Karen DeYoung, Philip Rucker and Anthony Faiola, The Washington Post, May 25, 2016, Pg. A1

Pope Francis welcomed President Trump to the cradle of Roman Catholicism on Wednesday, delivering a message of peace even as the pontiff emphasized his role as the world’s moral counterpoint to the president’s nationalist agenda.

The two met in the pope’s private study for nearly half an hour, joined only by an interpreter. The pontiff, in white papal dress and a pectoral cross on a chain around his neck, sat behind a small desk while Trump, in a dark suit and navy striped tie, took the single chair across from him as if interviewing for a job.

A brief Vatican communique later called the meeting “cordial,” and expressed hope for collaboration with the administration on “health care, education and assistance to immigrants.”



2. Pope Francis and President Trump Mend Fences, Note Agreements and Differences, ‘I won’t forget what you said,’ the president tells the pontiff after their 30-minute meeting

By Carol E. Lee and Francis X. Rocca, The Wall Street Journal, May 25, 2017, Pg. A7

President Donald Trump and Pope Francis met Wednesday for a fence-mending encounter that balanced talk of stark disagreements on issues such as migration with accord on other topics, including abortion.

Seated across from each other in the pope’s private study, Mr. Trump and the pontiff spoke for 30 minutes, aided by an interpreter. Before leaving the Vatican, the president told the pope,
“Thank you, thank you. I won’t forget what you said.”

Wednesday’s meeting was closely watched given the contentious history between the two leaders.

Mr. Trump’s meeting with the pope comes as his White House debates whether to withdraw from the international climate change agreement to cap carbon emissions that world powers reached in Paris in 2015.

Mr. Trump was sharply critical of the accord and opposed it as a candidate. He had planned to decide the issue before his trip this week to the Middle East and Europe, but aides convinced him to delay it until after he returns.

The White House said the two also discussed a shared desire to “promote human rights, combat human suffering, and protect religious freedom.”

The White House said Mr. Trump had told the pope the U.S. would commit $300 million to “anti-famine spending, focused on the crises in Yemen, Sudan, Somalia, and Nigeria.”


3. French Censors Target Children With Down Syndrome, A public-service TV ad—‘Dear Future Mom’—is rejected because it could trigger guilty feelings

By  Sohrab Ahmari, The Wall Street Journal, May 25, 2017, Pg. A19

You can learn a lot about a society by paying attention to what it censors. The Soviet Union went to great lengths to block the truth about freedom and prosperity in the West. Today China’s ruling Communists suppress historical memory of their crimes, above all the Tiananmen Square massacre, while the censors in my native Iran are obsessed with women’s bodies.

Then there’s France, where the government has proscribed a public-service commercial that shows children with Down syndrome describing the joy of growing up with an extra pair of chromosomes. The decision has triggered a free-speech battle royal that may soon reach Europe’s highest rights court.

The 2014 ad, “Dear Future Mom,” addresses a pregnant woman who has just discovered her baby has Down syndrome. “Dear future mom,” says one child. “Don’t be afraid,” says another. “Your child will be able to do many things.” “He’ll be able to hug you.” “He’ll be able to run toward you.” And so on.

In France three TV networks agreed to carry it as a public service. The feedback was glowing—until that summer, when the government’s High Audiovisual Council, or CSA, issued a pair of regulatory bulletins interdicting the ad. The regulator said it was reacting to audience complaints.
It wasn’t until after the foundation retained legal counsel, in December 2014, that the nature of the audience complaints became clear. There were only two.

The foundation this month lodged an appeal with the European Court of Human Rights, asserting free-speech violations as well as genetic discrimination. It helps that France is an outlier. The ad has aired in Britain, Croatia, Ireland, Italy, New Zealand, Spain and the U.S., among others. No other government took similar action against it.


4. With Gift and in Conversation, Vatican Presses Trump on Climate Change

By Mark Landler and Jason Horowitz, The New York Times, May 25, 2017, Pg. A8

Pope Francis put climate change on the agenda of his first meeting with President Trump on Wednesday, and the subject is likely to come up again and again in the president’s encounters with other world leaders in the coming days.

That could put Mr. Trump on the back foot after what had been an energetic swing through the Middle East.

The pope presented the president with a copy of his influential encyclical on preserving the environment, while in a broader meeting, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican’s secretary of state, urged Mr. Trump not to pull the United States out of the Paris climate accord.

Mr. Trump told his Vatican hosts that he would not make a final decision until after he returned to the United States, despite some expectations that he could announce a decision at the Group of 7 summit meeting in Italy this weekend.


5. Islamic State beheads cop, seizes Catholics in raid

By Jim Gomez and Teresa Cerojano, Associated Press, The Washington Times, May 25, 2017, Pg. A8

Islamic State group-linked militants swept through a southern Philippine city, beheading a police chief, burning buildings, seizing a Catholic priest and his worshippers and raising the black flag of IS, authorities said Wednesday. President Rodrigo Duterte, who had declared martial law across the southern third of the nation, warned he may expand it nationwide.

At least 21 people have died in the fighting, officials said.

As details of the attack in Marawi city emerged, fears mounted that the largest Roman Catholic nation in Asia could be falling into a growing list of countries grappling with the spread of influence from the Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq.

The violence erupted Tuesday after the army raided the hideout of Isnilon Hapilon, a commander of the Abu Sayyaf militant group who has pledged allegiance to IS. He is on Washington’s list of most-wanted terrorists with a $5 million reward for information leading to his capture.


6. Planned Parenthood called tax waste, Pro-lifers point to closing clinics as sign of failed business model

By Bradford Richardson, The Washington Times, May 25, 2017, Pg. A1

Pro-lifers say declining patient numbers, the promotion of abortion at the expense of health care services and the shuttering of several facilities show that Planned Parenthood’s business model is failing and its taxpayer funding could be better spent elsewhere.

The nation’s largest abortion provider announced last week that it would close four clinics in Iowa, three in New Mexico, two in Colorado and its last remaining facility in Wyoming, despite continuing to receive more than $500 million in annual taxpayer funding.

President Trump and Republican congressional leaders have promised to cut off the abortion provider’s taxpayer funding in a health care bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act and to redirect those dollars to clinics that do not perform abortions.

Planned Parenthood officials blamed the Iowa closures on similar legislation at the local level.


7. Catholics see Trump-Pope meeting as harbinger of common ground

By Margie Fishman, Kelsey Davis and Paul Singer, USA Today, May 24, 2017

As the world watched, President Trump and Pope Francis — two leaders with enormous megaphones, outsider personas and diametrically opposed views — found common ground Wednesday on issues such as the sanctity of life, religious freedom and peaceful coexistence.

“Clearly these are two men that can (in the words of the pontiff) ‘meet one another doing good,'” said Grazie Pozo Christie, a policy adviser for The Catholic Association, a national group dedicated to defending Catholic values.

“Both are committed to fighting totalitarian ideologies that lack a fundamental respect for personal liberty and the rights of conscience,” she added.


8. Trump has to be happy with outcome of Pope summit

By John L. Allen Jr., Editor, Crux, May 25, 2017

All that said, the meeting on Wednesday still has to be considered a win for Trump. As my Crux colleague Claire Giangravè put it yesterday on our Crux of the Matter radio show on the Catholic Channel, Sirius XM 129, Veni, vidi, vici … “he came, he saw, he conquered.”

First, when the two men met each other prior to the meeting, both seemed visibly tense. Francis wore the same somber expression he often does in formal settings, while Trump plastered an artificial smile on his face that seemed the dictionary-definition of awkward.

By the time the doors reopened at the end, however, both men seemed genuinely relaxed and at ease, with Francis even cracking a joke with Melania Trump about what she feeds her husband. (She responded with the name of a Slovenian delicacy that many Italians heard as “pizza,” causing a mini-frenzy.)

In other words, both leaders appeared to find a mutual comfort zone.

Even so, the dynamics on Wednesday were probably more than even a president determined to make things work could have anticipated, perhaps explaining why Trump gushed before leaving Rome on Wednesday that Francis is “something” and that their meeting was “fantastic.”


9. Dolan presses White House on relief for persecuted Christians

By John Allen, Inés San Martín and Claire Giangravè, Crux, May 25, 2017

As a potential first fruit of Wednesday’s first-ever meeting between Pope Francis and President Donald Trump, Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York said he’s already contacted the White House to suggest one way the two leaders could act on their pledge of concern for “the protection of Christian communities” in the Middle East.

The line came in a Vatican statement released shortly after the half-hour session between Francis and Trump on Wednesday, and it reflects exhortations both the pontiff and the president have voiced about the need to defend at-risk Christians in the region, especially those in Iraq and Syria targeted by ISIS militants.

Dolan said on The Crux of the Matter, a Catholic Channel program carried on Sirius XM 129, that he’s expressed his desire to the administration that some share of U.S. funding for humanitarian relief for ISIS victims be administered by the churches of the region, to ensure that it reaches Christian refugees and displaced persons.


10. Liberal Myths Have Consequences

By Rev. James V. Schall, S.J., Crisis, May 25, 2017

This book essentially maintains that the many sequential “justifications” of contemporary liberalism, on careful examination, are simply incoherent. Their basic “self-evident” propositions always require corrections. These recurrent flaws make the justifications less than evident, self or otherwise. They cannot sustain themselves before reason, whatever rationale that they offer for their on-going claim that they do make sense, at least to themselves. Indeed—and this is what the book is about—the ever new “reasons,” designed to replace or supplement the previous inadequate ones, are also continually rejected as inconsistent with reason. Each last “reason given” could not itself be substantiated.

The first brief citation from the Safranek book, cited above, means the following: Modern liberalism seeks, at every essential element of what-it-means-to-be-a-human-being, to substitute desire for reason to explain what a person is. A more extensive version of the same point is as follows: “[Liberalism] is a myth successfully propagated by social and political authorities to conceal their imposition of a distinct set of goods that undermine the traditional Western ethos. Liberalism is not a coherent philosophy but a collection of causes advanced under the rubric of personal liberty (Hegel’s subjective freedom) by powerful social and political interests.” The oft-repeated witticism, “scratch a liberal and you will find a totalitarian,” is rooted in the intellectual failure of liberalism to be able to justify its own premises of a desire-based explanation of human action. In the end, it always must resort to an authority itself based on arbitrary desire, not reason.

Safranek argues that the modern Supreme Court itself has been the most intellectually disordered source imposing a desire-based system on our public life. He argues, correctly, I think, that the Court is not a legislator constituted to impose its morals on the public. This concept is an abuse of the Constitution that attempts to justify lodging arbitrary power in the hands of a few unelected judges. Safranek pays a good deal of welcome attention to the aberrant thinking that justifies usurpation of power.

Once desires or pleasures are upheld as the fundamental good, morality (the self-rule of our desires) seems superfluous…. If morality is dispensable, then so are the political and legal precepts that it grounds. As the last six decades of legal political philosophy have amply revealed, the conundrum is insolvable in liberal terms. Liberals are reduced to appealing to authority, that of the Supreme Court, even though they cannot justify the Court’s power to uphold the desires of the minority vis-à-vis the majority or vice versa. Liberal jurisprudence devolves into positivism and authoritarianism (221).

This book contains a very clearly written, thorough, yet concise argument about the adequacy of the essential principles of modern liberalism. It is also a re-presentation of how classical/medieval understanding of family and virtue really is a superior understanding of the human good. The book is also encouraging in what seems like an otherwise bleak future for the family. “One does not need to be wealthy, powerful, or famous to maintain a happy family, enjoy friendships, appreciate beauty, exercise self-control, or attain knowledge.” In fact, on finishing this remarkable book, we can conclude with Aristotle that being wealthy, famous, or powerful probably will not make us happy. We need to see these goods, to return to the initial citation, in the light of the natural end to which they themselves are ordered. “Human beings are governed by—rather than choose—happiness as their end.”