1. U.S. Catholic Leaders Signal Resistance to Pope’s Agenda: Archbishop Joseph Naumann elected chairman of the committee on Pro-Life Activities in 96-82 vote.

By Ian Lovett and Francis X. Rocca, The Wall Street Journal, November 15, 2017, Pg. A3

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops chose a conservative archbishop for a key post Tuesday, signaling resistance to Pope Francis’s vision for the church among the Catholic hierarchy in the U.S.

Archbishop Joseph Naumann, of Kansas City, was elected chairman of the committee on Pro-Life Activities. In a vote of 96 to 82, he defeated Cardinal Blase Cupich, of Chicago, who is seen as a liberal in the church and a close ally of the pope.

Like all the bishops, Archbishop Naumann and Cardinal Cupich are both strong opponents of abortion and euthanasia. Archbishop Naumann said that he would keep the committee focused on those two issues, as it has been in recent years.

Cardinal Cupich, meanwhile, indicated that he would have broadened the committee’s focus to include other issues like the death penalty, health care and poverty—a list more in line with the priorities of Pope Francis.

The election will also have implications for domestic politics, where the Catholic bishops have been a powerful voice in the antiabortion movement.

However, Catholic leaders are hardly in lockstep with the Trump administration on immigration, and made a point of echoing the pope on the issue of welcoming migrants.

“It’s obvious that all the bishops are engaged on the issue” of immigration, said Archbishop Jose Gomez, of Los Angeles, an outspoken advocate of immigrant rights, and the vice president of the conference. He added that bishops need “to be very active and engaged with election officials.”


2. California and the Constitution.

By The Washington Times, November 15, 2017, Pg. B2, Editorial

There’s a lot about the law and the Constitution that California does not understand, particularly the First Amendment. The U.S. Supreme Court, perhaps willing to offer the needed tutorial in the law, has agreed to hear a legal challenge to a California law requiring private pro-life pregnancy counseling centers to tell their clients that the state will provide an abortion instead.

Unlike Planned Parenthood, the nation’s richest and most prolific provider of abortions, nonprofit pregnancy-resource centers provide a woman emotional support and confidential counseling if she wants to carry her child to term. Often operating on shoestring budgets, such centers provide financial and other assistance in kind, including maternity and baby clothing; housing, legal, medical and social-service referrals, and information on adoption.

Nevertheless, the abortion lobby accuses the centers of using “deceptive” advertising practices, intended to confuse women with unplanned pregnancies into thinking they’re receiving “neutral and objective” counseling.


3. Why Naumann’s big win isn’t necessarily all about Pope Francis.

By John L. Allen Jr., Editor, Crux, November 15, 2017

Yesterday’s big Catholic news in the States was the election of Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City, Kansas, over Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago as chair of the Committee for Pro-Life Activities at the U.S. bishops’ fall meeting.

It was the tightest vote of the six races for committee chairs at the 2017 meeting, with Naumann prevailing 96-82. Going in the thought was that Cupich might have the edge, in part because of the bishops’ tendency to choose cardinals to lead the committee to give it a higher profile.

In many media outlets, including Crux, the vote was presented in part as a referendum on the broader direction of the U.S. bishops in the Pope Francis era, indicating a preference for a more conservative line. There’s certainly something to be said for that reading, since Naumann and Cupich do seem to embody quite different options, and not just in their approach to pro-life advocacy.

On the other hand, before applying an exclusively political lens to the outcome – as if it were somehow a “no” vote to the entire Pope Francis agenda, sort of the U.S. bishops’ equivalent of Brexit – there probably are a few other factors to consider.

First of all, a vote within the U.S. bishops’ conference, like a papal conclave, is democracy of a sort, but with an extremely limited electorate. This isn’t a U.S. congressional race; it’s more akin to the election of officers for a social club, or maybe a department chair at a university, where only people who all know each other, and who have to be able to work with each other, cast ballots.

As a result, winners and losers aren’t always determined by where they stand on issues so much as whose friends they are, how much people like them, and their ability to get along with a wide range of personality types.

Second, the bishops generally like to reward loyalty and commitment to the conference itself, and when it comes to the Committee on Pro-Life Activities, Naumann brings it in spades.

From 1984 to 1995, then-Fr. Naumann served as the Archdiocesan Pro-Life Coordinator in the Archdiocese of St. Louis. He’s a longtime member of the USCCB’s Committee on Pro-Life Activities and always played an extremely active role in the group, willing to take on whatever assignment came down the pike.

Third, there’s a time-honored tradition of local bishops and bishops’ conferences trying to support the popes they serve where they’re strong, but also trying to plug gaps in areas where they’re perceived to be weak, or paying special attention to things that don’t appear to loom large in Rome on a given pope’s watch.

Most of the U.S. bishops who backed the idea didn’t understand it as an anti-John Paul II uprising. Instead, they saw it as a way to complement what was coming from Rome, reaching out to a particular group that sometimes felt neglected and misunderstood.

As a footnote, it will be interesting to watch Cupich’s attitude towards the bishops’ conference going forward. Over the years, prelates (of both left and right) nominated for various jobs but not elected sometimes ended up withdrawing from the conference a bit, perhaps thinking, “There’s not much for me here, so I’ll do my own thing.”

Chicago long has been a focal point for national leadership in the American Church, and part of Francis’s thinking in placing Cupich in the Windy City likely was for him to play that role now. What’s hard to assess after Monday, however, is whether Cupich’s destiny over time, like other Chicago cardinals before him, still is to remake the conference in his own image – or, whether he’ll try to envision a new way of leading the U.S. church in a social media age, one that doesn’t require bureaucracy, or episcopal consensus, to sustain itself.


4. Pope auctions Lamborghini to rebuild Christian Iraq.

By Nicole Winfield, Associated Press, November 15, 2017, 5:52 AM

Pope Francis got the keys to a fancy new Lamborghini on Wednesday — but he won’t be tooling around the Vatican gardens in it.

Instead, the special edition Huracan will be auctioned off by Sotheby’s, with the proceeds going to charities including one aimed at helping rebuild Christian communities in Iraq that were devastated by the Islamic State group.

Officials from the luxury sports car maker presented Francis with the sleek white car with papal yellow-gold detailing on Wednesday, outside the Vatican hotel where he lives. The pope promptly blessed it.

Some of the funds raised from the auction will go to rebuilding homes, churches and public buildings in Iraq’s Nineveh Plains that were devastated during three years of fighting by the Islamic State group. The Vatican said the aim is to allow Christians who were forced to flee Nineveh “to finally return to their roots and recover their dignity.”

Other funds will go to charities that help women who are trafficked and forced into prostitution, and those that provide medical care in Africa.


5. U.S. bishops ponder how to best implement ‘Amoris’ and ‘Evangelii Gaudium’. 

By Christopher White, Crux, November 15, 2017

Tuesday’s meeting at the fall assembly of the U.S. bishops’ conference ended with discussions on how the Church in the country should work to implement Pope Francis’s 2013 apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium and his 2015 exhortation Amoris Laetitia.  

The bishops voted to move forward with a pastoral plan to respond to the growing needs of Catholic families and married couples, as called for in Amoris Laetitia. Bishop Richard Malone of Buffalo introduced the proposal for the plan, and there was widespread agreement that the primary audience for the proposal would be young people in the Church.

Following the morning discussion, Malone was asked at a press conference to address the question of whether divorced and remarried Catholics could receive communion in light of Francis’s apparent cautious opening to it in Amoris.

Malone declined to provide a “yes” or “no” response, but said the hope of the pastoral plan is “to help people to enter into happier, holier, deeper marriages, and informed consciences about what marriage is. Hopefully going forward, our prayer and our goal is to have fewer broken marriages and divorces.”

Multiple bishops expressed frustration that so much of the attention Amoris has received has been around the singular question of communion for the divorced and remarried, and several bishops reiterated that the document is much more significant than the controversies that have surrounded chapter eight.