1. Catholic bishops’ agenda: immigrants, gun deaths, sex abuse.

By David Crary and Regina Garcia Cano, The Associated Press, November 11, 2019

US Catholic bishops received a challenging to-do list Monday as they opened their national assembly — notably to support immigrants and refugees, extend the campaign to curtail clergy sex abuse and work harder to combat gun violence. They also were urged by Pope Francis’ envoy to be more vigorous in promoting sometimes-divisive segments of the pope’s agenda.

“The pope has emphasized certain themes: Mercy, closeness to the people… a spirit of hospitality toward migrants, and dialogue with those of other cultures and religions,” Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the papal nuncio, told the bishops as they opened a three-day meeting. “Do you believe these are gradually becoming part of the mindset of your clergy and your people?”

Pierre said the bishops should find tangible ways of showing they supported the pope’s merciful message and flexible doctrine, which includes an emphasis on protecting the environment. The remarks came just weeks after Francis acknowledged he was under attack by some conservative Americans and spoke openly about the risk of “schism.”


2. Bishops mull gun control, abortion at annual meeting.

By Christopher Vondracek, The Washington Times, November 12, 2019, Pg. A6

Cardinal Sean Patrick O’Malley, the archbishop of Boston, told a meeting of U.S. bishops Monday that the Vatican’s long-awaited report on Theodore McCarrick has “resulted in great frustration on the part of bishops.”

But the Vatican is not yet ready to make public its investigation into how the longtime sexual abuser rose to such high ranks in the U.S. Catholic church.

Another key issue was how to reach lapsed Catholics. A 2018 study by Saint Mary’s Press found that 35% of young people who leave the Catholic church no longer maintain a religious affiliation. A Pew Research Study released this fall found that for every 1 person who becomes Catholic (not counting through infant baptism), 6.5 people drop the label.

A report from a pro-life committee of bishops by Kansas City Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann noted that 25% of “pregnant women in need” were Catholic.

“There are many different reactions and predictions as to how the courts may treat abortion in the future,” said Archbishop Naumann, referring to the Supreme Court’s conservative majority. “But whatever judges may do, our pastoral response must face the needs of women facing unexpected or unchallenged pregnancies.”


3. Supporting freedom of religious belief, Will the Supreme Court finally protect nuns from the government?

By Keisha Russell, The Washington Times, November 12, 2019, Pg. B3, Opinion

Since 1839, Roman Catholic nuns called the Little Sisters of the Poor have quietly served elderly por people around the world. However, since 2011, the Little Sisters have been propelled into the spotlight, asking federal courts to secure their right to live out their religious convictions in peace. Now, they are again asking the Supreme Court of the United States to settle the issue once and for all.

The Affordable Care Act’s Contraceptive Mandate forced the Little Sisters and other religious employers to provide health plans that include contraception. This includes contraception that prevents implantation of a fertilized egg, something that the Little Sisters and many other religious groups consider to be killing a human life.

In 2014, the religious objectors won at the U.S. Supreme Court when the justices said that the mandate violated the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) because it substantially burdened religious exercise and the federal government did not have a compelling interest in denying an exemption to the organizations.

Contrary to Hobby Lobby and other binding precedent, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit agreed with Pennsylvania and New Jersey, ruling that broader religious exemptions to the accommodation process is not permitted under the RFRA. Thus, the Third Circuit’s decision threatens all religious exemptions under the mandate and, even worse, it threatens the power of the RFRA and the First Amendment.

In response, once again, the Little Sisters have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to determine if they are indeed protected by the RFRA.

It’s time for the Supreme Court of the United States to stand up for Little Sisters of the Poor and other religious ministries and end this relentless legal assault on those who are simply trying to serve our communities in accordance with their religious convictions.

Keisha Russell is counsel to First Liberty Institute.


4. Abortion Extremists Hijack the U.N., Organizers of the Nairobi Summit attempt to undo the careful consensus forged at Cairo a quarter-century ago.

By Chris Smith, Wall Street Journal Online, November 11, 2019, 6:43 PM
Mr. Smith, a Republican, represents New Jersey’s Fourth Congressional District.

The governments of Kenya and Denmark and the United Nations Population Fund are attempting to hijack the U.N.’s global population and development work to support an extreme pro-abortion agenda. On Tuesday UNFPA opens the three-day Nairobi Summit, 25 years after the International Conference on Population Development in Cairo.

As a member of Congress I attended the ICPD, where 179 governments and 11,000 participants developed an international consensus. Participants rejected a global right to abortion—pushed by the Clinton administration, among others—and agreed that “governments should take appropriate steps to help women avoid abortion, which in no case should be promoted as a method of family planning.”

In contrast, conveners of the Nairobi Summit have blocked attendance by conservative organizations and excluded countries and stakeholders that disagree with their agenda from offering input on the substance and planning of the conference. This includes the U.S., which under President Trump has stated its objection at the U.N. to the use of ambiguous terms and expressions, such as “sexual health” and “reproductive rights,” on the grounds that such terms promote practices like abortion “in circumstances that do not enjoy international consensus and which can be misinterpreted by U.N. agencies.”


5. The Urgency of Religious Freedom.

By Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, Crisis Magazine, November 12, 2019
Most Reverend Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap., is the archbishop of Philadelphia.

The Religious Freedom Institute honored Philadelphia’s Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap., at its annual dinner, November 9, for his decades-long commitment to religious liberty. The following is adapted from his remarks.

As I was getting ready for tonight, I remembered a line from the Israeli peace negotiator who said that pessimists are simply optimists with experience. Experience is an unsentimental teacher. Between an eccentric White House, and a crop of Democratic candidates with crippled memories of what real socialism actually accomplished in the last century—mass murder, destroyed cultures, and ruined economies—the temptation today to pessimism can be very strong. The good news is that hope is quite different from optimism, because it’s rooted in a God who is outside and greater than ourselves.

Hope is a virtue. Like all virtues, it requires a certain amount of courage. In the Christian tradition, the trinity of virtues we call faith, hope, and charity should shape everything we do, both privately and in our public lives. Faith in God gives us hope in our future here, and also in eternal life. Hope casts out fear and enables us to love.

The reality of our public life is that Catholics—and I suspect most religious believers in the United States—can live quite peacefully with the separation of our religious structures and authorities from the power of the state. But the arrangement only works if it translates into real religious freedom. Freedom of religion, as the Founders understood it and Americans have always lived it, is not the same thing as freedom of worship.

A faithful married man is ruled in every aspect of his life, both public and private, by the commitment he makes to his wife. Anything less in his behavior is infidelity and hypocrisy. The same applies to our relationship with God. The state has a legitimate zone of its own secular authority in service to the community. But no zone of human activity, public or private, including the state, is free from the ultimate sovereignty of God. A state without a reverence for the religious dimension of man and its permeating role in human affairs is just another form of idolatry.

The point is this: We can never accept a separation of our religious faith and moral convictions from our public ministries and our political engagement. It’s impossible. Even trying to do so is crippling because it forces us to live schizophrenic lives—worshiping God at home and in our churches or synagogues or mosques, and worshiping the latest version of Caesar everywhere else. That turns our private convictions into lies that we tell to each other and to ourselves.

Religious freedom is the cornerstone of a free, honest, and morally vigorous society. We need to fight for it. This is why we need the Religious Freedom Institute, and why its service to our nation is so vitally important.


6. On Wounded Shepherds.

By Francis X. Maier, First Things, November 12, 2019

Disaffected Catholics of the “conservative” tribe typically criticize the current pontificate on four fronts: for diminishing Catholic thought with an anti-intellectual bias; for undermining a healthy Christian anthropology; for feeding disunity and confusion; and for downplaying the singular nature of the Christian revelation. It also—so they argue—has played loose with the notion of truth, thereby conflating mercy with indulgence, treating mercy as a kind of new, trademarked product of this papacy, and detaching mercy from justice, a virtue tied inextricably to truth. 

These strong claims are too often voiced in frustration or anger, and thus easily dismissed. But writing such critics off as reactionary cranks, the go-to tactic of many of Pope Francis’s defenders, is not just derisive and condescending. It also doesn’t work. Contempt for people who offer their questions and criticisms out of principle, even if they’re mistaken or needlessly harsh, has the opposite of the desired effect. It stiffens resistance and proves the need for more of it. Name-calling is a bad way of winning over the alienated. 

In that light, Austen Ivereigh’s latest book, Wounded Shepherd: Pope Francis and His Struggle to Convert the Catholic Church, could have been a friendly, candid midstream assessment of the Francis pontificate, the kind that might reassure critics (or at least win a truce) with conciliatory honesty. Ivereigh clearly has the intelligence and skill to produce such a text. But that’s not the book he wrote.

Along with the hubris and “hermeneutic of rupture” hardwired into the title—the author seems unaware that many of the persons raising questions about the current pontificate want to love Francis, want to believe in the pope’s leadership, and already live their faith sacrificially—Wounded Shepherd is 416 pages of sometimes interesting, sometimes tedious personal background on Francis and internal Church politics, undone by belligerent polemics and a sugar spike of hagiography that would kill a diabetic.


7. Expert says some Latin American Churches are doing ‘nothing’ about abuse.

By Inés San Martín, Crux, November 12, 2019

When Mexican Father Marcial Maciel, the disgraced founder of the Legionaries of Christ who was found to have abused minors, died in 2005, Portillo was in Rome and saw how some members of the order founded by the late priest still labeled him a saint.

When the Catholic Church in Ireland was shaken to its core due to further revelations of the scope of the clerical sexual abuse crisis in the Emerald Isle in 2009, Portillo was being ordained a deacon.

Today, ten years after his ordination, he leads a ministry that is shaped by these events: He is the founder of CEPROME, an interdisciplinary center for child protection in the Pontifical University of Mexico.

The center organized a Nov. 6-8 workshop on child protection in Latin America.

Speaking with Crux on Sunday, Portillo talked about the seminar, but also about the impact the clerical abuse crisis has had on him.

“I wonder sometimes if we truly understand the seriousness of the problem, and I believe we don’t,” he said. “I don’t want to sound insensitive, but it feels like when a person finds out they have stage one cancer: They sometimes prefer not to talk about it, denying the diagnosis instead of accepting reality.”


8. DiNardo praises abuse survivors for speaking out, as U.S. bishops begin fall meeting.

By Christopher White, Crux, November 11, 2019

In his final remarks as president of the U.S. bishops, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo encouraged the U.S. Church to continue to press ahead in the fight against clergy abuse and in defense of migrants and unborn human life.

DiNardo began his remarks on Monday at the start of the general assembly of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) by recalling several highlights of his time as president of the conference over the past three years.

Among the stories he recounted were those of visiting a border detention center and seeing the hand drawn pictures of Jesus and Mary made by children separated from their families, the work of crisis pregnancy centers across the country, and meeting with clergy abuse survivors.

“When too many within the Church sought to keep them in the darkness, they refused to be relegated to the shadows,” DiNardo said.

The 70-year-old prelate, who is the archbishop of Galveston-Houston, was elected as head of the U.S. bishops in November 2016, and nearly half of that time has been dominated by the latest wave of clergy abuse scandals.

On Monday, he praised the outspoken and tireless efforts of abuse survivors, saying “their witness brought help to countless fellow survivors. It fueled the resolve of my brother bishops to respond with pastoral support and prevention programs.”


9. Cardinal O’Malley: Pope Francis will publish Vatican McCarrick report ‘soon’

By Matt Hadro, Catholic News Agency, November 11, 2019, 3:41 PM

The results of the Vatican’s investigation of Theodore McCarrick should be published by early 2020, Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston told U.S. bishops on Monday.

“The intention is to publish the Holy See’s response soon, if not before Christmas, soon in the new year,” Cardinal O’Malley said on Monday afternoon

O’Malley presented a brief update on the status of the Vatican’s McCarrick investigation during the annual fall meeting of the U.S. bishops in Baltimore, Maryland, held from Nov. 11-13.


10. Bishop Barron urges bishops to help bring people back to the church.

By Carol Zimmermann, Catholic News Service, November 11, 2019, 8:42 AM

Auxiliary Bishop Robert E. Barron of Los Angeles did not just bemoan the fact many young people are leaving the Catholic Church. He said church leaders need to make it a priority to bring them back.

The bishop, chairman of the bishops’ Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis, who is known for his website, “Word on Fire,” and for hosting the documentary series “Catholicism,” offered a five-step plan of sorts to bring the religiously unaffiliated, or “nones,” back to the fold.

He said for starters, the church should lead with its social justice work, getting young people involved with caring for those in need, working in soup kitchens, prison ministries, helping the homeless. Leaders can reinforce this by reiterating messages on social justice from Popes Leo XIII to Francis.

From there, the church should promote its own writers and artists to show people the beauty of the Catholic faith, he said.

In a new conference after the presentation, Bishop Barron said he wasn’t surprised by the lengthy conversation about bringing people back to church because when he first brought up this topic last spring, he said he was supposed to have 10 minutes and it went an hour.

Yes, there was a lot to take up, but we have to do it, he said, emphasizing that an individual’s relationship with the Lord needs to be integrated into the life of the church.


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