1. Pro-Life Vote Viewed as Gauge of U.S. Bishops’ Support for Pope, The two candidates in next week’s vote represent the ideological poles of the U.S. church.

By Ian Lovett and Francis X. Rocca, The Wall Street Journal, November 13, 2017, Pg. A3

Nearly five years into Pope Francis ’ reign as leader of the Catholic Church, theologically conservative Catholics around the world are growing more outspoken in opposition to his agenda. The U.S. has been a major hub of resistance.

Now, with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops set to gather for their annual meeting next week, an election for a relatively obscure post—chairman of the committee on Pro-Life Activities—is emerging as a barometer of support for Pope Francis among the American hierarchy.

The vote is down to two candidates—Cardinal Blase Cupich, of Chicago, and Archbishop Joseph Naumann, of Kansas City—who represent the ideological poles of the U.S. church and have articulated different visions of what being pro-life should mean.

One bishop, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the conference was roughly split into thirds: One third who supported Pope Francis, one third more in line with Pope Benedict, and one third in the middle.

The pro-life committee election, the bishop said, will provide a measure of whether the group in the middle is moving toward Pope Francis’ approach. 

In an interview, Archbishop Naumann downplayed competition with Cardinal Cupich, and said he would keep the pro-life committee’s focus on abortion and euthanasia.

“The vast majority of bishops see this as the moral crisis of our time,” he said, referring to abortion. “The church’s leadership in this area is extremely important.” 

He said he wanted to “build upon” the church’s leadership on abortion, adding, “Absolutely, we have to be out there advocating for immigrants, for migrants, for the care of the poor. But that would be a real shift to put that all under the pro-life secretariat.”

That is exactly the shift Cardinal Cupich has advocated—a move that would put the bishops more in line with Pope Francis.


2. Pope Says No Phones in Church. Parishioners Keep Scrolling.

By Sarah Maslin Nir, The New York Times, November 13, 2017, Pg. A17

“At some point, the priest during the Mass says, ‘Lift up your hearts.’ He does not say, ‘Lift up your cellphones to take pictures,’” Pope Francis said last week during a general audience at St. Peter’s Square in Vatican City, where he urged Catholics to leave their phones home.

But during Sunday Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, it seemed either the pontiff’s message had not yet reached across the Atlantic or the churchgoers were not listening.

Joseph Zwilling, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of New York, said that some churches already offer apps, a trend he does not approve. “There are enough occasions for our mind to wander during Mass; we shouldn’t be using these artificial things that take us away,” he said.

 “What happens when you have your phone out? It buzzes, you get a text, you get a Facebook update, you get a notification. Suddenly, you’re not thinking about what’s happening in the Mass” Mr. Zwilling added. “That’s the real danger of having your phone.”


3. Pope’s top aide praises U.S. bishops for defending unborn, healthcare.

By Christopher White, Crux, November 13, 2017

Kicking off the centennial gathering of the U.S. bishops, the Vatican’s Secretary of State, Italian Cardinal Pietro Parolin, praised the U.S. bishops for their defense of both the unborn and access to healthcare in a homily for the opening Mass of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ fall assembly.

“In an age increasingly marked be secularization, materialism, and a coarsening of human relations, an essential aspect of your task as pastors of the Church in America is to propose that hope in season and out of season trusting in its power to attract minds and hearts to the truths of Christ,” said Parolin.

He specifically highlighted the recent Convocation of Catholic Leaders, which took place in July to discuss the exhortation and its applications in the American context, along with the recent Encuentros, which have focused on pastoral programming and priorities for Hispanic and Latino Catholics.

While in the United States, Parolin will deliver a major lecture at the Catholic University of America on the Second Vatican Council, titled “The Council: A Prophecy that Continues with Pope Francis.”  The university will also award him an honorary doctorate when he speaks there on Tuesday.

The opening mass for the bishops was held at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Baltimore and is the first Roman Catholic Cathedral in the United States.

The U.S. bishops will officially begin their meetings on Monday morning, which will continue through Wednesday.


4. Pope reaffirms conscience as heresy debate divides church.

By Nicole Winfield, Associated Press, November 11, 2017, 12:57 PM

Pope Francis on Saturday reaffirmed the “primacy” of using one’s conscience to navigate tough moral questions in his first comments since he was publicly accused of spreading heresy by emphasizing conscience over hard and fast Catholic rules.

Francis issued a video message to a conference organized by Italian bishops on his controversial 2016 document on family life, “The Joy of Love.” The document has badly divided the Catholic Church, with some commentators warning that it risked creating a schism given its opening to divorced and civilly remarried Catholics.

Francis told the conference that priests must inform Catholic consciences “but not replace them.” And he stressed the distinction between one’s conscience — where God reveals himself — and one’s ego that thinks it can do as it pleases.


5. Pope denounces ‘shortsighted’ human activity for warming.

By Nicole Winfield, Associated Press, November 11, 2017, 9:10 AM

Pope Francis on Saturday blasted “shortsighted human activity” for global warming and rising sea levels and urged leaders at climate talks in Germany to take a global outlook as they negotiate ways to curb heat-trapping emissions.

History’s first Latin American pope has frequently spoken out against global warming and the impact it has in particular on poor and indigenous peoples. His landmark 2015 encyclical “Praise Be” denounced how wealthy countries exploit the poor, risking turning God’s creation into an “immense pile of filth.”

Francis told the Pacific leaders that he hoped the Bonn talks would take their plight into consideration, and look for a shared strategy to confront the “grave problems” facing the environment and oceans.


6. Democrats Dragging Out Brownback Confirmation, Trump appointed governor to religious freedom post in July but Dems have criticized his LGBT record.

By Susan Crabtree, Washington Free Beacon, November 11, 2017, 5:00 AM

Catholic leaders and human rights activists are blasting Democrats for delaying the confirmation of Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback to a State Department post aimed at protecting the freedom of people around the world to practice the religion of their choice.

President Donald Trump nominated Brownback to become the U.S. ambassador at large for International Religious Freedom in late July, a post which is charged with promoting religious freedom and the protection of religious minorities from persecution as key objectives to U.S. foreign policy.

Brownback’s leadership is especially important right now, Catholic leaders and human rights activists argue. They say an urgent push is needed within the Trump administration to ensure a new State Department policy aimed at saving Christians, Yazidis, and other minority religious groups from extinction in Iraq is carried out.

“Senate Democrats are purposefully delaying confirmation of Gov. Sam Brownback,” Andrea Picciotti-Bayer, a legal adviser to the Catholic Association, a nonprofit organization that advocates for public policies that reflect Catholic values, told the Washington Free Beacon. “Petty politicking has no place where fundamental human rights are at stake. It is time for the Senate to do its job and confirm the eminently qualified Brownback.”

Picciotti-Bayer has cited Brownback’s “experience, stature and personal commitment” to the promotion of religious freedom. She points to his work during his time in the Senate on behalf of Christians in the Sudan, including his sponsorship of the Darfur Peace and Accountability Act. That law imposed sanctions against those responsible for the genocide and war crimes and supported the peace efforts.