1. Faith and Culture Mix at Center.

By Charles Passy, The Wall Street Journal, November 18, 2019, Pg. A10B

The Sheen Center is the cultural home of the Archdiocese of New York. And even as the Roman Catholic Church has contended with a range of issues and scandals in recent years, the center has proved something of a local success story.

Since the Sheen opened in 2015, it has expanded its programming. It now hosts more than 50 events annually that encompass many cultural disciplines, plus talks and lectures. The center’s leadership also says it draws its audience from beyond the base of 2.8 million Catholics throughout the metropolitan New York City area, noting that a local rabbi, Joseph Potasnik, serves on its board.

The Sheen’s programming isn’t Catholic-themed in a narrow sense, officials emphasize. That is, events don’t necessarily revolve around religious figures or texts.

Rather, the idea is to connect audiences with the religion on a broader level by promoting “the arts that are good, true and beautiful,” said interim Executive Director David Di Certo, who has been with the Sheen from the beginning.


2. Democratic Prosecutors Call for Abortion Rights.

By Lisa Lerer, The New York Times, November 18, 2019, Pg. A11

An association of Democratic state attorneys general will become the first national party committee to impose an explicit abortion litmus test on its candidates, announcing on Monday that it will refuse to endorse anyone who does not support reproductive rights and expanding access to abortion services.

To win financial and strategic backing from the group, candidates will be required to make a public statement declaring their support of abortion rights. The group, the Democratic Attorneys General Association, recruits candidates and helps their campaigns with financial support, data analysis, messaging and policy positions.

The decision comes as a series of state legislatures have approved restrictive laws designed to provoke a renewed legal battle over abortion rights, with the aim to reach the United States Supreme Court and topple Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 decision that legalized abortion.


3. D.C. effort to decriminalize sex work won’t move forward after 14-hour hearing.

By Marissa J. Lang, The Washington Post, November 18, 2019, Pg. B1

A bill that would decriminalize the selling and buying of sex in the nation’s capital will not move forward this year, lawmakers said, after an emotional hearing and thousands of emails revealed deep divisions among D.C. residents.

If it had been approved, the bill would have eliminated criminal penalties for sex workers and their customers, and made Washington the first American city to decriminalize prostitution.

The debate put the District at the center of a national campaign to draw sex work out of the shadows. Similar proposals in New York and Massachusetts, among other states, have also failed to gain ground.

“To separate prostitution from human trafficking is impossible,” said Janet Rodriguez, a human-trafficking survivor who said at last month’s hearing that she was forced to sell sex in Mexico and in the District. “If you pass this law . . . you will all have blood on your hands.”


4. The stunning new evidence of China’s dictatorial repression.

By Ishaan Tharoor, Washington Post Online, November 18, 2019, 12:59 AM

We have known for some time now that China is carrying out something deeply unsettling in Xinjiang. The restive, far west region of the country is home to a number of Turkic Muslim minorities, including the Uighurs, who in the last half-decade have been swept up in large numbers by the dragnet of the central state. We know that roughly a million or more people have been subjected to a vast system of detention or “reeducation” camps, where they are cajoled to “Sinicize” and abandon their native Islamic traditions.

But Chinese officials still hide behind the Potemkin villages of their own making.

They point to the necessity of such measures to counter the reach of radical Islamist groups in the region. We know now, though, that Chinese authorities don’t actually believe their own party line.

That’s because of the new details surfaced by an astonishing set of leaked documents obtained by the New York Times. The cache includes 403 pages of Communist Party directives, reports, notes from internal investigations and internal speeches given by party officials, including President Xi Jinping. The Times’s story by Austin Ramzy and Chris Buckley, published this weekend, offers a rarely seen window into the deliberations of one of the world’s most opaque governments.


5. Pope Replaces Financial Watchdog Head Amid Fallout From Raid.

The Associated Press, November 18, 2019, 6:39 AM

Pope Francis has replaced the head of the Vatican’s financial watchdog agency amid continuing fallout from a controversial Vatican police raid on his offices.

Francis thanked Rene Bruelhart for his work as president of the Financial Intelligence Authority as his term ends. The Vatican said Monday his replacement’s name would be released next week.

The AIF board had given its full support to AIF management after the Oct. 1 raid, which was sparked by a police investigation into a Vatican real estate deal.


6. Vatican Says Financial Regulator to Leave; He Says He Resigned.

Reuters, November 18, 2019, 7:22 AM

The Vatican said on Monday that Rene Bruelhart, the head of its financial regulator, would be leaving, and Bruelhart told Reuters he had resigned.

The departure of Bruelhart, a Swiss lawyer who has been in the top job for five years, follows an unprecedented raid at the offices of the Financial Information Authority (AIF) and the Secretariat of State on Oct. 1.

Five Vatican employees were suspended immediately after the police raids on Oct. 1, including AIF director Tommaso di Ruzza.


7. From child prostitution to nuclear arms, Pope has a big agenda in Asia.

By Inés San Martín, Crux, November 18, 2019

When Pope Francis embarks on the 32nd trip of his pontificate Tuesday, headed towards Thailand and Japan, he will once again be visiting nations where Catholics are a small minority. In both countries, there’s one Catholic for every 200 people, as opposed to roughly one for five in the United States.

The Nov. 19-26 trip will be Francis’s fourth to Asia, following South Korea (2014), Sri Lanka and the Philippines (2015), and Bangladesh and Myanmar (2017).

Though his first priority will be to boost the small local Catholic communities, Francis is bound to focus most of his 18 scheduled speeches – all in Spanish – on issues close to his heart and which heavily affect these countries.

The wide range of topics likely will include human trafficking and the exploitation of women and children in Thailand’s sexual tourism industry; the death penalty; corruption; and the high number of suicides among young people.

He’s also expected to call for peace and nuclear disarmament, especially during stops in Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan, and care for the environment.


8. ‘A Crisis of Saints’: An Interview with Archbishop José Horacio Gómez.

By Michael Warren Davis, Crisis Magazine, November 18, 2019

On November 12, the Most Rev. José Horacio Gómez, Archbishop of Los Angeles, was elected president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. His Excellency graciously granted Crisis his first substantial interview since his election.

It’s true, in many practical ways, we are living now in a country where God does not matter anymore. Our religious identity and our freedoms are being eroded by an aggressive secularism and “de-Christianizing” that marginalizes belief and believers, and that also is spreading confusion about the true meaning of life—who we are, what God intends for our lives.

In my opinion, part of the cultural and political crises we face today is that we’ve lost the capacity to think differently about our future; we’ve lost the sense of the divine horizon or transcendent dimension of our lives.

For me, immigration is not about politics. It’s about the dignity of the human person. And it’s also about our national identity and purpose, what America means and what does it mean to be an American.

The bishops recognize that it’s the imperative of every nation to secure their borders and to regulate who enters their country and how long they stay.

And we understand that there is genuine anxiety in our country because our demographics are changing and our economy is changing. Also, migration is one of the signs of our times. That’s just a reality. Movements of people are happening in every part of the world, millions of people are leaving their homelands, seeking a better life for their families; often, they are leaving because of violence and poverty.

As Catholics, we need to remember that we are not talking about “statistics,” we are talking about human beings—the image of God, our brothers and sisters.

Jesus did not say we only love those who are fellow citizens or who have the proper “papers.” Men and women do not become less of a child of God because they are “undocumented.” This is not a political position, it is matter of our faith.

I think all of us can point to issues in our society that disturb us—abortion, euthanasia, inequality, homelessness, our families breaking down, the random violence in our communities, racism, too many people in jail, pollution. There are many issues.

But the way I see it, all our political issues are symptoms of a bigger problem, and that is the loss of the human person.

We no longer know the beautiful mystery of life. We don’t know any more who we are, where we came from, or what we are made for. The awareness of our great dignity as children of God, the sense of God’s loving design for creation and the divine meaning of our lives—all of this is fading from the hearts and minds of this generation.

And our democracy can’t stand without a true and authentic understanding of the human person.

No change in the Church’s institutional organization and authority structures will be effective unless there is also a renewal in our hearts and minds, unless each one of us decides again to live our faith with greater integrity, new devotion and new excitement.


9. History’s Answer to Modern Despair.

By Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap., Crisis Magazine, November 18, 2019

As a result, knowing our history is important. A nation ignorant of its history is like a person with amnesia. Without a memory, the individual becomes, in a sense, a non-person. Without a grounding in the past, the present and future have no direction. And as with an individual or nation, so too, and even more so, with the Church. Since the Church is called to preach Jesus Christ across generations and cultures, her people need to know how and why we got where we are now, the better to support her mission into the future.

George Weigel has given us a perfect tool to do that with his latest book, The Irony of Modern Catholic History (Basic Books). His argument is simple: When Pope Pius IX lost Rome and the Papal States to anticlerical revolutionaries in 1870, it seemed

“that the Catholic Church was finished as a consequential player in history. That turned out to be exactly wrong. For in the 21st century, the Catholic Church is more vital and more consequential… Rather than killing Catholicism, the encounter with modernity has helped the Catholic Church rediscover some basic truths about [herself]. Even more ironically, the Church’s rediscovery of those truths might, just might, put Catholicism in a position to help secular modernity save itself from its own increasing incoherence.”

A gifted writer and speaker, biographer of St. John Paul II, and the author of more than two dozen books, Weigel ranks among the leading Christian public intellectuals of the past four decades. Stylistically, The Irony of Modern Catholic History is a pleasure to read. But the easy style disguises the fact that it’s also an exercise in superb historical scholarship, from the reactionary Pope Gregory XVI in the mid-19th century, through the Modernist crisis and Vatican II, to the present.

The most important quality to this most important book is its spirit of confidence and hope—backed up irrefutably by the facts of recent Catholic history and what they mean. Too often today, faithful Catholics are tempted to despondency or anger or fear. But in giving in to these poisons, we only defeat ourselves. Weigel gives us the antidote to these temptations with articulate zeal.

“Must read” is praise that’s badly abused by reviewers and publicists. But in this case it really does apply. The Irony of Modern Catholic History is a book too valuable to ignore.

Most Reverend Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap., is the Archbishop of Philadelphia.


10. ‘Ecological Sin’ Might Be Part of Teachings.

By Francis X. Rocca, The Wall Street Journal, November 16, 2019, Pg. A8

Pope Francis, who has made the environment a signature cause of his pontificate, said he strongly is considering adding the category of “ecological sin” to the Catholic Church’s official compendium of teachings.

Pope Francis has stressed the importance of environmental protection since his election in 2013. He dedicated an entire encyclical, “Laudato Si,’” published in 2015, to the topic.

In 2016, the pope added environmentalism, or “care for our common home,” to the Catholic Church’s traditional seven works of mercy. He also added it to the Beatitudes, the core set of Christian ideals.


11. How Democrats purged ‘safe, legal, rare’ from the party, The party’s absolutist stance on abortion is out of step with voters’ views.

By Alexandra DeSanctis, Washington Post Online, November 15, 2019, 4:19 PM, Opinion
Alexandra DeSanctis is a staff writer at National Review.

That abortions should be “safe, legal and rare” was, until fairly recently, a common Democratic talking point. Coined by President Bill Clinton, the phrase signaled his desire to protect the supposed constitutional right to abortion while acknowledging the views of people with moral qualms about the practice and perhaps even winning a few of them over to his side. It helped cement Clinton’s reputation as a moderate.

Today, Democrats use the phrase at their peril. The party’s base appears unwilling to tolerate a slogan that suggests abortion ought to be “rare,” hearing in it too much of a concession to abortion opponents. As a result, most Democratic candidates have erased from their rhetoric any hint that abortion might be a subject on which reasonable people can disagree, and they’ve altered their policy proposals to match — endorsing the repeal of all restrictions on paying for abortions with federal money, for example. These moves might excite the party’s progressive base, but they put candidates out of step with the average American and even with many of their own voters.

But pushing the Democratic Party in this extreme direction is a political mistake that ignores the views of Democrats who do not share the all-or-nothing abortion attitudes of many primary voters. It also prevents Democratic candidates from picking off some independents and even Republicans who are itching to vote for anyone but President Trump but who simply will not abide a candidate who supports abortion on demand, in all three trimesters. Most consequentially, of course, the leftward shift on abortion commits one of our two major political parties ever more completely to the wrongheaded and unethical position of denying the humanity and right to life of the unborn.


12. Pope considering adding ‘sin against ecology’ to Church’s catechism.

By Inés San Martín, Crux, November 15, 2019

Speaking to a group of lawyers on Friday, Pope Francis said that the Catholic Church is contemplating the introduction of “ecological sin” to the compendium of Church teaching.

“We have to introduce, we are thinking about it, in the catechism of the Catholic Church, the sin against ecology, the sin against our common home, because it’s a duty,” he said.

The pope’s words came just weeks after the conclusion of a bishops’ summit on the Amazon focused on the environmental threat to the region.

Francis was speaking to the 20th world congress of the International Association of Penal Law, held in Rome Nov. 13-16, under the scope of “Criminal Justice and Corporate Business.”


13. Poll finds American Catholics don’t look to clergy on politics.

By Elise Harris, Crux, November 15, 2019

A new survey from the Pew Research Center has found that not only do most Americans believe religion and politics shouldn’t mingle, but Catholics are less likely than members of other Christian denominations to trust their clergy on hot-button issues.

According to the study results, American Catholics were found to be “less likely than all the other major Christian groups to have a lot of confidence in their clergy to give advice on almost all of the religious and personal topics asked about in the survey.”

Those topics include one’s relationship with God, the interpretation of scripture, marriage and relationships, anxiety and depression, personal finances, abortion, immigration and global climate change.

Catholics and Protestants are equally at 53 percent on feeling “somewhat close” to their clergy.

Just 29 percent of Catholics said they trusted clergy “a lot” when it comes to meaningful guidance on abortion, and only 33 percent said they had “some” trust in clergy.

Relatively few Americans said they believed their clergy were united on one side of the partisan divide, with those who attend services a few times a year largely unaware of their clergy’s political affiliation.

Most of those who attend services, belonging to both parties, said they were happy with the amount of political discussion heard during sermons, with just 11 percent saying there was too much.


14. Archbishop Gomez: USCCB’s Faithful Choice.

National Catholic Register, November 15, 2019, Editorial

While the fall gathering of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Baltimore had a lengthy agenda, the most momentous decision was the bishops’ choice of the next president of the conference.

But what does the election of Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles truly signify?

Secular media depicted the choice of the first Latino bishop to become president of the conference as a deliberate rebuke of President Donald Trump over the issue of immigration.

Such an assertion is a partisan misunderstanding of both the thinking of the bishops and the stature of Archbishop Gomez. He was not chosen out of some petty grudge against Trump. Nor was he chosen simply to check some box to promote diversity.

In reality, by electing Archbishop Gomez, the bishops have chosen steady leadership not only in a time of political, social and spiritual challenges, but also of immense opportunity and hope for reform and renewal. His election communicates that the U.S. bishops are determined to stay the course of leadership that is firm and faithful in upholding the teachings of the Church, while recognizing the incredible cultural diversity that exists in Catholicism in the United States.

In thanking the members of the conference after his election, Archbishop Gomez noted “the beautiful diversity and the missionary spirit of the family of God in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.” In his archdiocese, the largest in the country, Mass is said in dozens of languages. He also stressed that the vote was “a recognition of the essential place that Latino Catholics hold in the life of the Church and in the life of our great nation.”

Famously soft-spoken and always courteous and temperate, Archbishop Gomez as head of the conference represents a new moment for faithful Catholics to embrace civility but also quiet, holy heroism in modern culture. In his own words, “Our times call for a heroic Christianity, but not a heroism of big speeches or grand gestures. There is a quiet, ‘hidden’ heroism in Christian living, being missionaries and apostles in the circumstances of our daily lives, not worrying about the pressures to conform to our society, not worrying about what other people may say.”

Sound advice for the average Catholic and even sounder advice for America’s bishops.


15. Court rules Daleiden’s undercover videos caused ‘substantial harm’ to Planned Parenthood.

Catholic News Agency, November 15, 2019, 3:05 PM

A pro-life organization said that “justice was not done,” after a federal court found that pro-life advocate David Daleiden’s Center for Medical Progress caused “substantial harm” to Planned Parenthood by secretly recording meetings with abortion doctors and staff to expose their business practices.

“Justice was not done today in San Francisco. While top Planned Parenthood witnesses spent six weeks testifying under oath that the undercover videos are true and Planned Parenthood sold fetal organs on a quid pro quo basis, a biased judge with close Planned Parenthood ties spent six weeks influencing the jury with pre-determined rulings and suppressing the video evidence, all in order to rubber-stamp Planned Parenthood’s lawsuit attack on the First Amendment,” the Center for Medical Progress said Nov. 15

“This is a dangerous precedent for citizen journalism and First Amendment civil rights across the country, sending a message that speaking truth and facts to criticize the powerful is no longer protected by our institutions,” the group added.

The federal court in San Francisco has ordered Daleiden’s organization to pay Planned Parenthood $870,000 in punitive damages.

The decision was issued Nov. 15, after U.S. District Court Judge William Orrick ordered the jury to find Daleiden guilty of trespass on several separate occasions in the course of his work.


16. Cardinal Pell’s Appeal and Australia’s High Court: What’s In Play?

By Edward Pentin, National Catholic Register, November 15, 2019

What does the decision of Australia’s High Court this week on the appeal of Cardinal George Pell mean for the cardinal, and what is likely to happen next?

On Tuesday, two High Court judges, Michelle Gordon and James Edelman, referred the cardinal’s application for special leave to appeal to a full bench of the High Court’s justices after Cardinal Pell’s lawyers argued a lower appellate court had made mistakes.

At that hearing, expected in March or April next year, up to seven justices will listen to arguments presented by all parties on whether the cardinal should or should not be granted leave and the substantive appeal.

The cardinal, who has always vigorously protested his innocence, was convicted Dec. 11, 2018, on five charges that he sexually abused two choir boys as archbishop of Melbourne after Sunday Mass in the city’s St. Patrick’s cathedral in 1996 and 1997.

Sentenced to six years in prison, the 78-year-old former prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy must serve at least three years and eight months before being eligible to apply for parole. The cardinal appealed against the verdict earlier this year, but in August the Court of Appeal in Victoria upheld his conviction.

The High Court is his final chance to be freed from prison and clear his name.

He is therefore “clearly pleased” with the High Court referral, sources close to him told the Register Nov. 14. He will not be seeking bail but rather “concentrating on the High Court appearance” and although in solitary confinement, unable to celebrate Mass and without natural light, they say he is in good spirits and allowed to tend the prison garden each day — a request he made to give his days purpose. “The cardinal is well,” a friend of his told the Register Nov. 13. “He is writing — a lot, and still receiving a lot of mail.”

“This week’s surprise court decision marks a turning point in Cardinal Pell’s prospects for release, but he is not out of the woods yet,” cautioned John McCaulay, a former altar server at Melbourne’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral, where the offenses are alleged to have happened, and who attended Cardinal Pell’s mistrial, retrial and appeal.


17. An Honest Abortion Debate.

By Alexandra DeSanctis, National Review Online, November 14, 2019, 6:30 AM

In the forthcoming issue of The Atlantic, Caitlin Flanagan has an incredibly thoughtful essay called “The Dishonesty of the Abortion Debate.” In it, she takes the pulse of what continues to make our disagreements about abortion so intractable — and though her conclusion misses the mark in some respects, she comes quite close to the truth.

Much of the piece deals with the gruesome reality of older abortion methods, primarily those involving Lysol, which resulted in pregnant women facing severe medical complications and, in some instances, death. Some abortion opponents are inclined to ignore these horror stories, afraid that acknowledging them cedes too much to the argument that restricting abortion would take us back to when it was “unsafe.” (On this view, keeping abortion legal means keeping women, who will want abortions regardless of the law, alive.)

A better pro-life tactic would be to acknowledge and lament the suffering caused by older abortion methods, even as we insist that no abortion method — no matter how supposedly modern, sanitary, or safe — is good for women.

A better pro-life tactic would be to recognize the unique trials of pregnancy and child-rearing, even as we insist that those trials are never properly solved by extinguishing a life that has already come into being.

It is on the other side of the debate that Flanagan hits her target squarely. To be sure, not every pro-choice person favors abortion on demand until birth, and not every abortion-rights advocate is as radical as the group “Shout Your Abortion.” But by and large, those who work to preserve and expand the right to abortion do so without acknowledging the humanity of the unborn.

The chief strength of Flanagan’s essay is its nod to the power of ultrasound technology, which reveals what our abortion debate so often leaves out: These are human lives. The conflict over abortion is dishonest and unwinnable not because both sides make poor arguments, but because only one side is willing to admit that reality.


18. The Dishonesty of the Abortion Debate, Why we need to face the best arguments from the other side.

By Caitlin Flanagan, The Atlantic, December 2019 Issue

The argument for abortion, if made honestly, requires many words: It must evoke the recent past, the dire consequences to women of making a very simple medical procedure illegal. The argument against it doesn’t take even a single word. The argument against it is a picture.

This is not an argument anyone is going to win. The loudest advocates on both sides are terrible representatives for their cause. When women are urged to “shout your abortion,” and when abortion becomes the subject of stand-up comedy routines, the attitude toward abortion seems ghoulish. Who could possibly be proud that they see no humanity at all in the images that science has made so painfully clear? When anti-abortion advocates speak in the most graphic terms about women “sucking babies out of the womb,” they show themselves without mercy. They are not considering the extremely human, complex, and often heartbreaking reasons behind women’s private decisions. The truth is that the best argument on each side is a damn good one, and until you acknowledge that fact, you aren’t speaking or even thinking honestly about the issue. You certainly aren’t going to convince anybody. Only the truth has the power to move.


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