1. Trump Reverses Obama’s Anti-Christian Decree, No more discrimination against Catholics and evangelical Protestants in adoption services.

By Russell Moore, The Wall Street Journal, November 4, 2019, Pg. A17, Opinion

Pro-life Americans often get criticized for focusing too much on babies in the womb and not enough on those who’ve been born. Yet countless evangelical Christians devote their lives to foster care, adoption and similar services for vulnerable children.

But those who want to live out these convictions frequently find themselves stopped by the government. Last week the Trump administration took a major step toward addressing the problem.

In the closing days of the Obama administration, the federal government handed down a regulation that effectively barred from federal child-welfare programs organizations that believe marriage is between a man and woman. This affected many Roman Catholic and evangelical Protestant organizations. This misguided policy was rushed into effect right before President Trump’s inauguration.

While the Obama administration made the issue national, it’s happening locally too. In March 2018, Philadelphia declared an urgent need for hundreds of new foster families. Then the city government barred Catholic Social Services from placing children in homes because of the Catholic Church’s teaching about marriage. City hall’s use of children as leverage to force a religious institution to change its beliefs was appalling.

Michigan’s Attorney General Dana Nessel cited the Obama-era rule when attempting to cancel a state-approved foster-care and adoption-services contract with St. Vincent Catholic Charities. Thankfully, a federal judge issued a preliminary injunction so the group can continue serving children as the case continues.

Communities of faith have a lot to offer to children in foster care. Barna research shows that practicing Christians may be more than twice as likely to adopt compared with the general population—with Catholics three times as likely and evangelicals five times as likely. That’s because Christians are eager to open their hearts and homes for children in foster care.

Mr. Moore is president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention.


2. German bishops test limits of modernizing the Catholic Church, They want to talk about abandoning the celibacy requirement and vaulting women into leadership.

By Chico Harlan, The Washington Post, November 3, 2019, Pg. A14

Among those who believe the Catholic Church must liberalize to save itself from perpetual decline, some of the staunchest advocates are church leaders here in Germany.

Some German bishops have spoken in favor of abandoning the celibacy requirement for priests and vaulting women into leadership roles now off-limits. Some have urged updating the religion’s stern sexual morality, saying the church can’t afford to be out of touch or alienating.

But as Germany tests the boundaries of how much Catholicism can bend to the modern age, it is emerging as a center of tension within the divided global church.

Much of the concern originates in the United States, where some traditionalist bishops, along with Catholic conservative media outlets, are opposed to Pope Francis’s advocacy for a more inclusive faith. They say Francis is diluting moral teaching, pushing an anti-capitalist, pro-migrant agenda, and sowing confusion about what the church stands for. And Germany, they say, is a country whose appetite for change threatens to outpace that of the pontiff himself.


3. HHS proposes rule to strip LGBTQ grant protections.

By Ariana Eunjung Cha, The Washington Post, November 3, 2019, Pg. A22

Citing concerns about religious freedom, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar on Friday proposed a new rule that would effectively eliminate discrimination protections for LGBTQ individuals in all its grant programs.

The most immediate impact would likely be on the nation’s $7 billion federally funded child-welfare system, including foster care and adoption programs. Faith-based agencies in several states, including South Carolina, Texas, Michigan and Pennsylvania, have argued they should not be forced to work with gay, lesbian or transgender parents against their own beliefs.

But the proposed rule would also apply to other HHS grants, including those for HIV and sexually transmitted disease prevention, other public health initiatives, health education, prekindergarten programs and more.

Lori Windham, senior counsel at the Becket Fund, a nonprofit group that champions religious freedom, said in a statement that HHS is repealing “a bad regulation that made it harder for faith-based foster care and adoption agencies to follow their sincere religious beliefs while serving children in need.”

The old rule, “made in the waning days of the Obama administration, with no legislative or judicial mandate, limits the good done for needy kids by faith-based agencies because of their longstanding beliefs about marriage,” Andrea Picciotti-Bayer, legal adviser for the Catholic Association Foundation, said in a statement. “Agencies that find loving foster and adoptive homes shouldn’t be subject to ideological shakedowns by the government.”


4. Is now the time for the Vatican to double down on ties with Taiwan?

By John L. Allen Jr., Editor, Crux, November 3, 2019

The story comes to mind in light of a series on Crux over the last few days by Senior Correspondent Elise Harris, who was reporting from Taiwan. In the abstract, one might wonder why the Vatican even bothers with its diplomatic relations with Taiwan today, since it seems reasonably obvious that one day, sooner rather than later, they’ll downgrade the papal mission in Taipei in favor of diplomatic recognition by Beijing.

So, why prolong the inevitable? Perhaps one way of answering the question is that being the lone state in Europe to recognize Taiwan leaves the Vatican with exactly one thing China wants.

It’s long been clear what the Vatican wants from China, and it’s not a short list.

First, Rome wants the ability to help shape the international agenda that comes from full diplomatic relations with one of the world’s economic and military superpowers, and a nation whose population represents almost one-fifth of humanity.

Second, the Vatican wants greater religious freedom in China, not only for the small Catholic minority there but for other religious subgroups as well, including Uighur Muslims in the northwestern part of the country.

Third, the Vatican wants to finally heal the historic breach in China between an above-ground and an underground church, and it sees normalization of its relationship with the Chinese government as key to making that happen.

The question has always been what, exactly, the Vatican has to offer in return, and the honest answer is precious little.


5. In a secondary sense, Pope Francis delivers another homage to St. John XXIII.

By John L. Allen Jr., Editor, Crux, November 2, 2019

The latest reminder of the point came Thursday, when Francis added the feast of Our Lady of Loreto on Dec. 10 to the universal calendar of the Catholic Church, including celebration of the Mass that day and also the Divine Office, the Church’s official daily prayer.

Naturally, the move is motivated mostly by Francis’s keen devotion to Mary and the Holy Family. The decree announcing the decision said it would “help all people, especially families, youth and religious to imitate the virtues of the perfect disciple of the Gospel, the Virgin Mother, who, in conceiving the head of the Church also accepted us as her own.”

The sanctuary at Loreto has its own fascinating history and place in Catholic devotion, which isn’t our purpose here.

However, the connection with John XXIII is this: Loreto was also a very special place to him, and it was where he went in October 1962 to ask the Madonna for her intercession on behalf of the Second Vatican Council (1962-65) just before it opened.

That trip, by the way, had enormous historical significance, because it was the first time a pope had left Rome since declaring themselves “Prisoners of the Vatican” at the time of the loss of the papal states in 1870 during the unification of Italy. That self-imposed imprisonment was taken as a metaphor for the papacy’s rejection not only of the modern Italian republic, but the whole idea of a separation between church and state.

To repeat, the primary reason for inscribing Loreto on the Church’s calendar is to honor Mary and the Holy Family. Had Francis simply wanted to offer a tip of his papal zucchetto to John XXIII, he could have found a much more direct way of doing it.

However, equally it would be a mistake to miss the secondary dimension to this decision, which is another small way in which Francis sees himself as heir to the pope who called Vatican II, and whose legacy, he believes, is still driving the ecclesiastical train today.


6. Postscript: Smoke From Amazon Synod Affects the Lungs of the Whole Church.

By Father Raymond J. de Souza, National Catholic Register, November 1, 2019

A venerable phrase kept occurring to me during the last days of the Pan-Amazon synod: sollicitudo omnium ecclesiarium. It means the “care for all the Churches” and refers to the governance of the entire Church universal.

The Amazon synod, which closed Oct. 27, highlighted the need for all bishops to recover a fuller sense of their sollicitudo omnium ecclesiarium in the pastoral care of the entire flock of Christ. The governance of the Church universal is entrusted to the entire College of Bishops, which acts in two ways, according to Vatican II: through its head alone, the pope, and as a body united to its head, the pope.

It came to mind because the Amazon synod manifested a certain lack, to my mind, of the sollicitudo omnium ecclesiarium in three ways.

First, there is the pastoral problem of access to the sacraments in the remote areas of the Amazon. This is not a new problem in the history of the Church, and it even earned the attention of the Second Vatican Council, which sought to address the imbalance in the global distribution of priests by creating new structures for priests to serve in lands far away from their home dioceses. That’s where the idea of “personal prelatures” came from, though none have been set up to address the distribution of priests around the world. The only personal prelature erected has been for Opus Dei, but for quite different canonical reasons.

The Amazon synod did not emphasize an intensified sharing of priests, but, rather, new measures — married priests; studying a “diaconate” for women — that have not been previously employed elsewhere. The synod fathers were not seized with the conviction that their sollicitudo omnium ecclesiarium meant providing themselves for the remote regions within their own countries.

Second, the synod participants did not appear to give much weight to the impact that their deliberations would have on other parts of the Church. Considering “new paths” for the Amazon without thinking them through as part of a universal Church is a failure of the sollicitudo omnium ecclesiarium. A particular bishop, or group of bishops, cannot regard themselves as somehow apart from the Church universal, unconcerned with how their decisions will have a wider effect.

Third, the whole Church was watching the Pan-Amazon synod, and there was no shortage of bishops who were concerned by what they saw and heard. They remained, with few exceptions, silent.


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