1. US abortion clinics face surge of trespassing and blockades. 

By David Crary, Associated Press, May 7, 2018, 7:12 AM

America’s abortion clinics experienced a major upsurge in trespassing, obstruction and blockades by anti-abortion activists in 2017, according to an annual survey by an industry group.

The report found that there was an overall decrease in acts of vandalism against clinics but a significant increase in activities aimed at disrupting services and intimidating patients and providers. Acts of trespassing increased from 247 in 2016 to 823 in 2017, instances of obstruction tripled to 1,704 and threats of death or other harm nearly doubled to 62.

Many clinics across the U.S. routinely are targeted by legal picketing near their premises. But in some cases, the protests escalated and led to intervention by federal and law enforcement agencies.

Citizens for a Pro-Life Society, a group headed by Roman Catholic theology professor Monica Migliorino Miller, described the incursions as “an act of nonviolent defense of unborn children about to be aborted.” Miller was among those arrested in Michigan, and in February was convicted of trespassing.

In part, because of the legal and financial challenges, the number of abortion clinics in the U.S. has been declining. As of 2014, when the last comprehensive tally was made, there were 788 clinics.


2. The New Era of Abstinence. 

By The New York Times, May 6, 2018, Pg. SR8, Editorial

Mr. Trump’s Department of Health and Human Services is quietly advancing an anti-science, ideological agenda. The department last year prematurely endedgrants to some teen pregnancy prevention programs, claiming weak evidence of success. More recently, it set new funding rules that favor an abstinence-only approach. In reality, programs that use creative ways to educate teenagers about contraception are one reason teen pregnancy in the United States has plummeted in recent years.

The administration is promoting a “just say no” approach to adults as well as to teenagers. It’s poised to shift Title X family planning dollars — funds largely intended to help poor adult women around the United States get birth control — toward programs that advocate abstinence outside of marriage, as well as unreliable forms of birth control like the rhythm method (though the health agency might have to reverse course if either of the lawsuits filed against it last week by Planned Parenthood and other women’s health advocates are successful).

Public health experts strongly recommend a comprehensive approach to sex education, one that informs young people about abstinence as well as about various forms of contraception and other aspects of sexual health.


3. Paul Ryan’s failed exorcism.

By Kathleen Parker, The Washington Post, May 6, 2018, Pg. A23, Opinion

Given the cornucopia of issues Americans have to select from each day, the recent firing and rehiring of the House of Representatives’ chaplain may not have bestirred many to form an opinion.

But these days, the Hill is alive with buzz as people absorb the odd goings-on between House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.), who pushed the chaplain to resign, and the Rev. Patrick J. Conroy himself, who later withdrew his resignation, and Ryan’s acceptance of what appears to be pastoral bullying.

At this point, however, one might have a better sense of why Ryan wanted Conroy to leave in the first place. As a Catholic whisperer said to me, “Wait a minute, buddy, redemption is on the other side, not in this world.” In other words, among the more-charitable remarks surrounding Conroy, many see an ego problem that has interfered with his pastoral role.

While Ryan and Conroy dueled, Democrats wasted no time in trying to turn this hot mess into a cool opportunity. In a move that raised the bar on hypocrisy, the party of abortion — but not religious — rights galloped to the Catholic priest’s defense. Yet, back in March, Democrats blocked the Conscience Protection Actfrom being included in the 2018 omnibus appropriations bill. That legislation would have ensured the rights of antiabortion medical practitioners to not be forced to perform abortions.

The end result of this unforced fiasco is that soon there likely will be no chaplain at all. Once politicians start playing religious favorites, it’s a given that the position of chaplain will be viewed skeptically. Indeed, a debate has already begun about whether to eliminate the position.

Many would applaud such a development in the spirit of separating religion and government. The problem with abolishing the office wouldn’t be primarily religious but all too human. When politicians and presidents pray, they’re essentially performing a rite of humility and submission to a higher order — if not to God then at least to something greater than themselves. Implicit in this public exercise is a show of faith in scriptures that guided this country’s founders.


4. Catholic Confusions on Alfie Evans. 

By Ramesh Ponnuru, National Review, May 5, 2018, 6:00 AM

Readers of NRO are by now pretty familiar with the horrific case of Alfie Evans, a British child who died a few days ago, weeks ourchy of his second birthday. Because I continue to read commentary about the case that appears to me to be based on mistakes — and on misguided thinking that would be relevant to future cases — I wanted to say a few more words about it. As it happens, some of the most misguided commentary I’ve seen on the case has come from Catholic sources who are wrongly applying Catholic teaching in ways that portray the treatment of Evans to seem less horrific than it was, or even justified. But since these confusions also appear among non-Catholics, they too may find it worthwhile to consider them.

Catholics, like reasonable people with different religious convictions, recognize that parental authority over sick children is not absolute and can legitimately be overriden by the government. Catholic teaching recognizes as well that doctors and public authorities are not morally required to do everything possible to keep all sick people alive for as long as possible. Cardinal Vincent Nichols has alluded to both points in his defense of the Alder Hey Hospital and the British courts, and the second point features heavily in the defense by Kevin Clarke for America magazine.

But while it can be justified for government authorities to overrule the medical decisions of parents, its warrant to do so is limited. Nichols carelessly implies that Catholic teaching holds that those authorities may overrule parents whenever they think the parents are wrong about a child’s interests. But Catholicism’s emphases on the importance of family, the duties of parents to their children, and the properly subsidiary role of central authority all buttress the case — again, a case with which reasonable non-Catholics agree — for preferring parental authority in these matters. Parental abuse, neglect, or some similar consideration can justify an override. Nothing of the sort was present in Evans’s case, as British courts repeatedly and to their credit noted. Judges merely asserted that the parents were wrong about Alfie’s interests, misled by their strong albeit understandable emotions.

I do not claim that all people of good will agree that it is wrong to try to bring about someone’s death, or to refrain from trying to preserve his life, because he is disabled, even profoundly and permanently disabled, or because he is disabled and likely to experience continued decline. I do claim, however, that this view is in line with Catholic teaching; the views of most pro-lifers, whatever their religious beliefs; and the views of many other people besides. And I further claim that this pro-life, Catholic view is directly at odds with the assumptions that governed Alder Hey and the judges who considered Alfie Evans’s case.


5. Pope urges Neocatechumenal missionaries to respect cultures. 

By Nicole Winfield, Associated Press, May 5, 2018

Pope Francis on Saturday urged one of the Catholic Church’s biggest but most contentious missionary movements to respect different cultures and not try to conquer souls as it spreads the faith around the world.

Francis headlined a big rally marking the 50th anniversary of the Neocatechumenal Way’s arrival in Rome. The community founded in Spain in the 1960s seeks to train Catholic adults in their faith and each year sends out families on mission around the globe.

Francis though is less a liturgical purist and has insisted the church be more missionary in nature. As a result, he has seemingly embraced the Way, albeit with regular warnings, including on Saturday, to work for and not against unity in the church.

Francis warned the 34 new missionary groups heading out not to dictate to others or follow pre-ordained scripts, but to accompany the faithful patiently. He urged them to love and respect the cultures and traditions of other people.

While appreciating the movement’s religious zeal, bishops in Japan, the Philippines and elsewhere in Asia and Europe have accused the movement of wreaking havoc in their dioceses and have tried to limit the Neocatechumenals’ activities, shutting their seminaries and complaining to the Vatican. Critics point to the Way’s secretive, sect-like ways and of alleged cultural insensitivity by missionaries, who by some estimates number 1 million.


6. France’s Macron, after overture to Church, to visit pope in June. 

By Reuters, May 4, 2018, 1:31 PM

President Emmanuel Macron, accused of straining France’s secular foundations by saying he wanted to mend ties with the Catholic Church in his country, will travel to the Vatican in June to meet Pope Francis, the Vatican said on Friday.

Vatican spokesman Greg Burke said both sides were organizing a visit for late June but no further details were available.


7. Iowa governor signs ‘heartbeat’ bill banning abortion after six weeks. 

By Kristine Phillips, The Washington Post, May 4, 2018

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds on Friday signed a bill that would prohibit abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected. It is one of the most restrictive laws of its kind in the United States and one that Republicans hope will pave the way for a showdown at the U.S. Supreme Court.

The “heartbeat” bill, which would ban abortions as early as six weeks — around the time women generally feel early signs of pregnancy and before many realize they are pregnant — was passed Tuesday by the Iowa House, 51-46. The state Senate passed the bill 29-17 early Wednesday, sending it to Reynolds (R), who has said abortion is “equivalent to murder.”