1. Religious intolerance at the heart of debate over same-sex foster parents.

By Andrea Picciotti-Bayer, The Philadelphia Inquirer, November 1, 2018, Opinion
Andrea Picciotti-Bayer is legal advisor for the Catholic Association Foundation.

Wayne Thomas was the answer to 3-year-old Brittany’s prayer more than 25 years ago.  Brittany prayed for someone to play with as she watched the children at the Our Lady of Victory Catholic School playground across from her grandmother’s house in West Philadelphia.  Brittany’s grandmother is Sharonell Fulton, one of the foster parents suing the City of Philadelphia for freezing its referral of foster children through Catholic Social Services (CSS).

Earlier this year, the city demanded that CSS agree to endorse same-sex couples as foster parents.  CSS refused, citing centuries-old Catholic teaching on marriage and the family.  Instead, CSS proposed referring same-sex couples to one of the other 29 foster-care agencies partnering with the city.  But the city’s commitment to long-time foster parents, such as Mrs. Fulton, and foster children, such as Wayne, was less important than the opportunity for political grandstanding.   Unwilling to accommodate CSS, the city has refused to refer any more children for foster placement to the agency.

CSS-supported foster care answered Brittany’s and Wayne’s prayers more than 25 years go, but the need for foster-care homes is even greater today. The City of Philadelphia’s gratuitous intolerance is keeping CSS and its foster-care parents from continuing to answer the prayers of many little children in need. The Third Circuit Court of Appeals has an opportunity to right this wrong and help more trees – and children – thrive in Philadelphia.


2. Church Official Accused of Sex Abuse, The Rev. John Jenik has been removed from his New York post during a Vatican review.

By Melanie Grayce West, The Wall Street Journal, November 1, 2018, Pg. A10A

One of the highest-ranking leaders at the Archdiocese of New York has been accused of sexual abuse of a minor and removed from his post pending a review by the Vatican, according to letters released Wednesday by Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the archbishop of New York.

The single allegation against Bishop Jenik dates back decades, according to a letter by Cardinal Dolan released Wednesday. In a separate Oct. 29 letter to parishioners, Cardinal Dolan said the archdiocese’s review board examined the allegations and deemed them credible and substantiated.

In a separate undated letter that was shared with parishioners, Bishop Jenik steadfastly denied “that I have ever abused anyone at any time.”


3. Pakistan Ruling Sparks Backlash, Hard-ling Muslims protest court release of Christian woman jailed for blasphemy.

By Saeed Shah and Waqar Gilani, The Wall Street Journal, November 1, 2018, Pg. A10

Pakistan’s highest court freed a Christian mother sentenced to death under the country’s harsh blasphemy laws, sparking protests and violent threats from Muslim hard-liners.

After the ruling, demonstrators called for the killing of the judges in the case, the toppling of the government and a revolt against the country’s powerful army chief.

That provoked a nighttime televised address by Prime Minister Imran Khan. The protesters “are not helping Islam. They are acting as enemies of the country,” he said. “To further their political ends, they are inciting you.”

Pakistan has some of the most severe blasphemy laws in the world, with hundreds languishing in prison on blasphemy charges. 

The woman freed in the ruling, Asia Bibi, a farmhand, was jailed in 2009 when an argument led to blasphemy charges being made against her. The Supreme Court ruled that the evidence against her was flimsy and inconsistent, describing it as a “feast of falsehood.” The hearing was presided over by the country’s chief justice.

The case drew international outcry. Pope Benedict XVI was among those who called for mercy for the mother of five.


4. Pakistani court tosses blasphemy conviction, Christian woman faced execution after being found guilty on evidence judges deemed flimsy.

By Shaiq Hussain, Pamela Constable and Meagan Flynn, The Washington Post, November 1, 2018, Pg. A10

In a tensely awaited ruling Wednesday, Pakistan’s highest court spared the life of a Christian woman sentenced to death for blasphemy, prompting celebrations among human rights activists but nationwide protests by Muslim religious parties, some of whose leaders called for the justices to be killed.

A three-judge Supreme Court panel overturned a lower court’s conviction of Bibi, who spent eight years in prison while appealing charges of making “derogatory remarks” about the prophet Muhammad. The panel found that the evidence against her appeared fabricated and flimsy. If Asia had not been granted clemency, she could have been the first person hanged under the blasphemy laws, which carry a mandatory death penalty.

In the United States and elsewhere abroad, religious rights activists and others praised the court’s decision. The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom said her case “illustrates the extent to which blasphemy laws can be exploited to target minority communities.” Christians and members of Pakistan’s Ahmadi minority are often falsely accused of blasphemy.


5. Take-aways from landmark ruling in Pakistan blasphemy case.

By John L. Allen Jr., Editor, Crux, November 1, 2018

For anyone concerned about religious freedom worldwide, and especially Christians alarmed about the rising global tide of persecution directed at their fellow believers, it’s essentially impossible to overstate the significance of the news Wednesday that Asia Bibi has been absolved and set free by Pakistan’s Supreme Court.

It should be said that however obvious a legal conclusion that may seem, it required great courage. Pakistan’s independent judiciary has long been a bulwark against the fundamentalist tide, and members have paid a price; since 2007, at least seven judges have been killed in violent attacks, and within two hours of the Supreme Court’s decision on Wednesday, Pakistan’s Islamist party called for these justices to be slain as well.

According to an analysis by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life, as of 2011 nearly half the countries in the world, 47 percent, have laws or policies that criminalize apostasy, blasphemy, or defamation of religion. Anti-apostasy and anti-blasphemy laws tend to be most common in the Middle East, North Africa, and Asia Pacific, and in the eyes of critics, they usually function to penalize religious minorities at the expense of whatever the socially dominant religious tradition may be.

Finally, there’s an important third lesson: Officialdom does not have to lead the way.

While the Catholic bishops of Pakistan have supported Bibi’s appeals over the years and challenged the blasphemy laws, her family has long complained they haven’t been nearly aggressive enough, sometimes practicing a strategic silence at key points. That’s in part because a Catholic pastor in Pakistan has to think about the possible implications of whatever he says or does for the entire community – knowing that if they inflame the radicals too much, they may end up making things worse.

For all those frustrated when they perceive the Church’s powers to be sitting on the sidelines at a critical moment, perhaps the conclusion is this: Let them stay on the sidelines if they want, but that doesn’t always mean the game is lost.


6. Church covered up priest’s abuse of 50 boys.

By Ryan J. Foley, Associated Press, October 31, 2018, 2:18 PM

Roman Catholic diocese acknowledged Wednesday that it concealed for decades a priest’s admission that he sexually abused dozens of Iowa boys — a silence that may have put other children in danger.

The Rev. Jerome Coyle, now 85, was stripped of his parish assignments in the 1980s but never defrocked. And it was not until this week, after The Associated Press inquired about him, that he was publicly identified by the church as an admitted pedophile, even though the Diocese of Sioux City had been aware of his conduct for 32 years.

The diocese recently helped Coyle move into a retirement home in Fort Dodge, Iowa, without informing administrators at the Catholic school across the street.

Coyle is unlikely to be prosecuted for any of his long-ago offenses because the statute of limitation has run out. He has not been named in any civil suits, and O’Brien said the diocese has never paid a settlement related to him.