1. In new pastoral letter, Wuerl calls for ‘fresh emphasis’ to combat ‘divisive evil’ of racism.

By Christopher White, Crux, November 1, 2017

In a new pastoral letter released on Wednesday, Cardinal Donald Wuerl called for a strengthening of the Church’s efforts to confront racism, labeling it a “divisive evil that leaves great harm in its wake.”

Addressed to the clergy, religious, and laity of the archdiocese of Washington, “The Challenge of Racism Today,” references “incidents both national and closer to home” that Wuerl said will require a “fresh emphasis” on the “mission for reconciliation.”

Following the deadly, racially motivated events in Charlottesville, Virginia this past August, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) announced that it would establish an Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism as a part of the Church’s “ongoing efforts to combat the sins of racism.”

In his letter, Wuerl argues that there are two necessary starting points for action: first, recognizing that racism exists in various forms, “some more subtle and others more obvious,” he noted, and secondly, recognizing that there is something that can be done about it, beginning on a personal level.

A new pastoral letter on racism will be released in 2018 by the U.S. bishops.


2. Georgetown students delay vote to defund group.

By Mary Hui, the Washington Post, November 1, 2017, Pg. B4

A marathon hearing at Georgetown University that started Monday evening and stretched well past midnight ended because the building had to be locked up, with no decision on whether to defund a pro-marriage campus group accused of fostering hatred and intolerance.

Love Saxa had been the subject of a complaint filed by two students last monthin which they argued that the group’s promotion of traditional heterosexual marriage discriminates against LGBTQ relationships at the university in the District.

The group’s existence as an officially recognized university club now hangs in the balance after the Student Activities Commission decided to adjourn the meeting without a vote. As of early Tuesday morning, the committee had not decided on a date to reconvene for a final decision.

Love Saxa advocates for marriage as “a monogamous and permanent union between a man and a woman,” the group states in its constitution. That definition of marriage, coincidentally, aligns with that espoused by the Catholic Church, raising the question of how administrators at Georgetown, the United States’ oldest Catholic and Jesuit institution of higher learning, will handle the controversy if it eventually comes before them.

In the run-up to the hearing, prominent Catholic scholars had voiced support for Love Saxa. The Rev. James Martin, author of a book on promoting dialogue between the Catholic church and the LGBT community, told the Catholic News Agency that for “a true dialogue to happen around LGBT issues, especially at Catholic universities,” all participants should engage in open dialogue and treat one another “respectfully and lovingly.”

Robert George, a professor of jurisprudence at Princeton University and a leading conservative Christian intellectual, called the effort to defund Love Saxa “illiberal — even authoritarian,” which is a “matter of grave concern for honorable people across the ideological spectrum.”


3. Senate confirms controversial Trump nominee to appeals court.

By Lydia Wheeler, The Hill, October 31, 2017, 5:35 PM

The Senate confirmed a Notre Dame law professor to a Chicago-based federal appeals court Tuesday despite widespread criticism from advocacy groups.

Democratic Sens. Joe Donnelly (Ind.), Tim Kaine (Va.) and Joe Manchin(W.Va.) joined Republicans in the 55-43 vote to confirm Amy Coney Barrett to the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The Catholic Association came to Barrett’s defense, calling the criticisms against her an “attack” on her Catholic faith.

“Amy Coney Barrett’s qualifications for the federal judiciary are undisputed, but abortion industry advocates continue their smear campaign by attacking Barrett’s Catholic faith,” the group’s legal adviser, Andrea Picciotti-Bayer, said in a statement.

“The full Senate rejected their attempt to hang a ‘Catholics need not apply’ sign outside the Senate chamber when it considers candidates to the judiciary,” she said.


4. Lawsuit targets Trump’s rollback of birth-control rule.

By David Crary, Associated Press, October 31, 2017, 8:32 PM

Two national advocacy groups filed a federal lawsuit in Indiana on Tuesdaychallenging a rule change by President Donald Trump’s administration allowing more employers to opt out of no-cost birth control for workers.

The suit was filed on behalf of five women at risk of being denied birth control coverage, including three University of Notre Dame students.

The Catholic university in northern Indiana recently told staff and students that it planned to halt no-cost contraceptive coverage starting next year. The National Women’s Law Center and Americans United for Separation of Church and State filed the lawsuit in the local U.S. District Court.

The South Bend Tribune reported earlier that an email sent by Notre Dame to faculty and staff on Friday showed that insurance coverage for birth control would end for employees on Jan. 1. Students under the school’s insurance plan, which provides contraceptives at no-cost through Aetna Student Health, would be covered until Aug. 14.

The university’s medical plan will cover contraceptives if they’re used to treat a specific medical condition, not as a method to prevent pregnancy. Those medications will come with standard prescription copayments.


5. Absence of faith: There can be no religious test for public office.

By Archbishop William E. Lori, William E. Lori is archbishop of Baltimore and chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, The Hill, October 31, 2017, 11:00 AM

In recent months, we have seen nominees for public office receive increased scrutiny from U.S. senators who have been deeply critical of the nominees’ religious beliefs.

For instance, a nominee for a post at the Office of Management and Budget was asked during his confirmation hearing in June, “[D]o you think that people who are not Christians are going to be condemned?”

And a nominee for the federal judiciary was asked by one senator whether she considers herself an “orthodox Catholic,” and chided by another because “the dogma lives loudly within” her. Undeterred by the appropriate backlash to this line of questioning, others have doubled down on it, arguing that the nominee should have disclosed to the Senate whether she is now or has ever been a member of a particular religious community within the Catholic Church.

Our lawmakers seem to be forgetting the Supreme Court’s admonition in Torcaso, as well as Article VI of the Constitution, that government cannot force someone to profess a belief — or disbelief — in any religion, in order to hold public office.

Instead, we need to allow space for differing opinions in a pluralistic society. A person’s faith should not disqualify her from public office, and excluding religious beliefs from the public square would be a poor representation of the diversity of our country when it comes to people of faith.

The recent comments from U.S. senators have a chilling effect on those who may be considering serving in the federal government in some capacity — as an economist, a judge or any of the hundreds of positions that require Senate confirmation. Why bother to leave the comfort of the private sector, where no secular employer would fathom asking these kinds of questions about an applicant’s faith (and such questions would almost certainly be illegal there as well)?