1. Ireland Votes Whether to Repeal Abortion Ban as Catholic Influence Wanes, Polls show majority in favor of repeal, but many remain undecided.

By Paul Hannon, The Wall Street Journal, May 25, 2018, 5:35 AM

Irish voters are deciding Friday whether to remove a ban on abortion from the country’s constitution, a sweeping change that would further dilute church influence in a country steadily moving away from its Catholic roots.

Polls show a majority in favor of lifting the ban, with younger, urban Irish people more strongly in favor than older, rural voters. But many remain undecided and the referendum has been hotly debated, with dueling rallies and signs both for and against plastered around the country.

Antiabortion activists argue that the ban has kept the abortion rate well below levels seen in other European countries and the U.S. The campaign to lift the ban has argued it has largely failed to stop Irish women terminating their pregnancies, pointing out that over 150,000 have traveled to the U.K. to do so since 1980.

If the ban, which was added to the constitution through a 1983 referendum, is removed, the government has said it would back legislation that would allow terminations up to 12 weeks of pregnancy, and later in some exceptional circumstances.


2. Cardinal: Communion cannot be shared with friends like beer or cake. 

By Simon Caldwell, Catholic News Service, May 25, 2018

Holy Communion is exclusively for Catholics in a state of grace and not something to be shared between friends like beer or cake, said a former senior adviser to two popes.

Nigerian Cardinal Francis Arinze said any moves to give greater access to Communion to divorced and remarried Catholics and to non-Catholic spouses of Catholics represented “serious” challenges to the teaching of the Church on the Eucharist.

In a May 23 interview with Catholic News Service, he implicitly objected to interpretations of Pope Francis’ 2016 apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia that would permit divorced and remarried Catholics who had not received an annulment to receive Communion in certain circumstances.

“If a person is divorced and remarried (without the first marriage being annulled) then there is a problem,” said Arinze, adding that Jesus taught that their arrangements constituted adultery.

“It is not we who made that (teaching),” said the cardinal, 85, who served as prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments under St. John Paul II and now-retired Pope Benedict XVI. “It is Christ who said it.”

His comments were made amid a controversy over the German bishops’ pastoral handbook titled, “Walking with Christ – In the Footsteps of Unity: Mixed Marriages and Common Participation in the Eucharist.”

The document has divided the German bishops and seven of them, including a cardinal, have requested the intervention of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts.


3. How could I help my grandmother dying in pain? The best comfort was the rosary. 

By Sohrab Ahmari, Sohrab Ahmari is senior writer at Commentary magazine and a consulting editor of the Catholic Herald, The Catholic Herald, May 25, 2018

A saccharine, synthetic smell filled the suburban Boston nursing home where my grandmother spent the last two years of her life.

My grandmother – we called her Maman Farah in the family – lived on the floor reserved for the neediest patients. … As for Maman Farah, Parkinson’s disease imprisoned her in bed, yet she retained her mental faculties. She was thus fully aware of her condition and of time’s slow crawling.

A disc disorder and later Parkinson’s robbed her of all that spirit. In her first year at the nursing home, she could still speak on the phone, watch television and feed herself.

By the second year, Parkinson’s had effectively locked Maman Farah inside her own body and barred her from speaking for much of the day. She would beg her caretakers to move her limbs now this way, now that. They complied, but these exertions brought little relief. She could only communicate with blinks and moans. A blink meant “yes,” a hard stare meant “no,” and a soft moan meant “help” or “water.” Only the shakes remained in the end.

My grandmother’s nursing home was a cruciform space. There, the mystery of suffering and the mystery of death were more acutely present, and the Cross more visible, than they were in the humdrum world outside. As Maman Farah’s condition deteriorated by the day, she withdrew from the here and now, even as she remained trapped in the earthly vale. At her bedside, the eternal penetrated the confines of the contingent.

What was I to say to her, once she had heard every obscene joke, watched every video of my son (her great-grandson) on my smartphone, reminisced about every shared memory? How could I accompany her, when nothing, not even morphine, seemed to alleviate her pain? The best answer I came up with was the rosary, the prayer which epitomises the Gospels, in the words of the Catechism, and contains the whole of Christianity in a simple but undiluted form.

At almost every visit, I would kneel on a pillow next to her bed and say the rosary, sometimes in English, sometimes in Latin, occasionally in Persian. In their final years, both my grandparents but especially Maman Farah turned quite ecumenical on matters religious. Before Parkinson’s silenced her completely, my grandmother would ask me from time to time to “say that prayer of yours”. This, even as she also recited the Koranic verses and Shia supplications etched in her memory since childhood.


4. Pope Tells Bishops Not to Accept Gay Seminarians: Report. 

By Reuters, May 24, 2018

Pope Francis warned Italian bishops this week to vet carefully applicants to the priesthood and reject anyone they suspected might be homosexual, local mediareported on Thursday.

“Keep an eye on the admissions to seminaries, keep your eyes open,” the pope was quoted as saying by newspaper La Stampa’s Vatican Insider service. “If in doubt, better not let them enter.”

In a 2005 document, released under Francis’s predecessor Pope Benedict, the Vatican said the Church could admit into the priesthood those who had clearly overcome homosexual tendencies for at least three years.

But it said practicing homosexuals and those with “deep-seated” gay tendencies and those who support a gay culture should be barred.

The reported comments to the bishops might appease conservatives who have grown alarmed at the way Francis has dramatically shifted the language the Church has used about homosexuality since his election in 2013.


5. Vote on revised medical directives on tap at bishops’ spring assembly. 

By Dennis Sadowski, Catholic News Service, May 24, 2018

Revised guidelines governing Catholic and non-Catholic health care partnerships will be on the agenda of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ spring general assembly June 13-14 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

The revisions are limited to Part 6 of the “Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services,” the document that governs moral questions related to the delivery of health care.

The bishops also will consider a new document described as a “pastoral response” to the growing Asian and Pacific Island Catholic community in the United States. “Encountering Christ in Harmony” offers pastoral suggestions to address the concerns and needs of Asian and Pacific Island Catholics.

Revisions in language to clarify seven of the 17 articles in the “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young Adults” are on the agenda for review and a vote as well.

In addition, reports on the V Encuentro, a nationwide gathering of Latino Catholics in September, and this fall’s Synod of Bishops on on Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment at the Vatican are planned.


6. At prayer breakfast, Ryan calls Catholic social teaching ‘antidote’. 

By Christopher White, Crux, May 24, 2018

While American Catholics are divided both in the pews and in public life – perhaps more than ever before – nearly 1,200 Catholics came together at the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast in Washington on Thursday “not as members of political parties, but as brothers and sisters in Christ.”

With those words, event chairman Mark Randall kicked off the annual event Thursday morning at the Marriot Marquis Hotel in the nation’s capital.

Since 2004, the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast has served as a yearly occasion for prayer for the leadership and direction of the country in response to Pope John Paul II’s call for a “New Evangelization.”

In an event that bore a strong conservative stamp of approval – including a handful of Republican legislators, and former advisor to President Donald Trump, Sebastian Gorka, in attendance – Democratic Representative Dan Lipinski opened the event by leading the crowd in the Pledge of Allegiance.

This year’s breakfast included opening remarks from Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and newly appointed Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom, Sam Brownback, while Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City, Kansas delivered the morning’s keynote address.

Ryan said that Catholic Social Teaching serves as an antidote to the “deeply serious” problems in society today.

“We see moral relativism becoming more and more pervasive in our culture. Identity politics and tribalism have grown on top of this. All of it has been made more prevalent by 21st century technology,” said Ryan. “And there is plenty of money to be made on making it worse.”

Ryan said that it was up to Catholic laity and clergy alike to solve these problems.

“Our social doctrine does not offer instant answers or easy outcomes,” he said, before observing that it provides “something far more important.”

Along with a call to “civic friendship,” Ryan said that the Church’s social doctrine ensures the respect and dignity of all human persons and a caution against allowing the state “too great a reach into civil society.”

Former Governor of Kansas, Brownback used his time at the dais to make a hard sell for the importance of religious freedom – not as something merely enshrined in the country’s founding documents or in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights – but as a “God-given right.”

Among the many challenges facing the United States today, none is more serious than the country’s “crisis of faith,” said Naumann in his keynote address, which happened to coincide with his 43rd anniversary of ordination to the priesthood.