1. Center for Reproductive Rights sues administration over right to contraceptives.

By Alex Swoyer, The Washington Times, October 11, 2017, Pg. A2

The Center for Reproductive Rights is filing a lawsuit Tuesday in federal court against the Trump administration’s new rule exempting employers from paying for employees’ contraceptives based on religious objections, arguing it’s a violation of women’s constitutional right to liberty in accessing birth control.

The Health and Human Services Department announced Friday that any employer who asserts a good-faith religious objection to paying for contraceptives through their insurance plans be exempt from Obamacare’s contraceptive mandate, which has sparked new court battles.

Unlike the American Civil Liberties Union’s (ACLU) lawsuit filed Friday in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California against the new exemption, the Center for Reproductive Rights is making an additional claim that the government’s rule violates a woman’s access to contraception under the fundamental right to liberty in the U.S. Constitution.


2. Meeting Middle East Christians is where Western stereotypes go to die.

By John L. Allen Jr., Editor, Crux, October 11, 2017

Lebanon, where my Crux colleague Inés San Martín and I are this week, is a great case in point. Talk to the Christians here – both the native Lebanese, and the strong contingent of Syrian Christian refugees – and you’ll quickly find yourself challenged on at least three bits of Western conventional wisdom.

Assad is a bad guy and must go

For most Western nations, it’s a foreign policy a priori that Syria’s Bashar al-Assad is a bad actor, a thug and a bully who’s gassed his own people, suppressed dissent, and cozied up to Iran and Russia to preserve his grip on power.

That’s not at all, however, the thinking of most Christians here, who don’t see Assad as the alternative to a thriving democracy. Instead, they see him as the alternative to chaos, meaning a takeover by ISIS or some other form of Islamic extremism. In that equation, Assad looms, by some order of magnitude, as the lesser of two evils.

Hezbollah is a terrorist group and an existential threat to Christians

The U.S. government officially classifies the Shi’ite Muslim movement based in Lebanon as a terrorist organization, and in the popular mind across much of the West, Hezbollah is part of Jihadism Inc., basically on a par with ISIS, Al-Qaeda, and other radical groups which are inveterate enemies of Christianity and the West.

That’s not, however, the way many Lebanese Christians see it.

A recent poll found that 62 percent of Lebanese Christians believe Hezbollah has been doing a better job than anyone else in defending Lebanese interests in the region, and they trust it more than other social institutions.

Europe is where the refugee crisis is centered

It’s become a staple of Western media rhetoric that Europe today is in the grip of a massive refugee crisis, its largest since World War II, with that narrative fueled in part by dramatic images of children washing up on Mediterranean beaches and crowds of angry protestors demanding better living conditions in European detention centers.

The bottom line is that a refugee crisis in the early 21st century does indeed exist, but its front lines are nowhere near the West – they’re in the Middle East, where places such as Lebanon are bearing burdens that most other countries can’t even begin to imagine.

To begin, it’s not that stereotypical Western impressions of the Middle East are entirely wrong. Clearly, Syria’s Assad is no one’s idea of a paragon of virtue – arguably, he meets most standard definitions of a war criminal. Meanwhile, Hezbollah has deeply worrying features, and many European societies unquestionably are being strained to cope with their new arrivals.

On the other hand, perhaps the moral of the story is this: Before drawing hard and fast policy conclusions about the Middle East, Western governments and activists might want to talk to the people who actually live here, to see how issues play out in their experience and draw on their up-close-and-personal perspective.

Doing so might point the way to somewhat different Western strategies for the region, which is probably long overdue – if, that is, we accept the maxim that one definition of madness is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.


3. Spadaro at Notre Dame: “Mercy essential to understanding pope’s political engagement”.

By Christopher White, Crux, October 11, 2017

In a major address at the University of Notre Dame on Tuesday, Jesuit Father Antonio Spadaro argued that Pope Francis’s conception of mercy is essential to understanding the pope’s engagement in international politics – and why the pope rejects fundamentalism and advocates for an open diplomacy centered around the practice of solidarity.

Spadaro’s remarks on “The Diplomacy and Geopolitics of Mercy: The World of Pope Francis,” were delivered at the Hesburgh Center for International Studies for the annual Terrence R. Keeley Vatican lecture.

Spadaro is a close collaborator with Francis and is the editor-in-chief of the influential Jesuit journal La Civiltà Cattolica.

In veiled reference to U.S. foreign policy under the George W. Bush administration, Spadaro added: “The pope rejects the mixing of politics, morals and religion that leads to the use of a language that divides reality between the absolute Good and the absolute Evil, between an axis of evil and an axis of good.”

The phrase “axis of evil” was first used by Bush in his 2002 State of the Union address to describe collectively enemies of the United States, particularly Iraq, Iran, and North Korea.

In his most direct mention of internal debates within American Christianity, Spadaro said that Francis’s view of engaging the world does not align with the “so-called ‘Benedict Option.’”

The Benedict Option is a best-selling book published by conservative commentator Rod Dreher in March 2017 that advocates for Christians to withdraw from the mainstream and promote a Christian counterculture.

“Bergoglio wants to liberate pastors from the feeling of being at war…by which the Church feels enclosed by a society it must fight against,” he said.


4. Koch, Turkson speak at Catholic University’s ‘Good Profit’ conference.

By Tom Roberts, National Catholic Reporter, October 11, 2017

The talk was all about money — good money — in the form of “Good Profit,” the theme of the Oct. 4-6 gathering co-sponsored by the university’s Busch School of Business and Economics and the Napa Institute, whose chairman and co-founder, Timothy Busch, is the one whose name is attached to the business school. More than 500 people were registered for the event.

The event’s high point came on the second day with a rare public appearance by Charles Koch, a major funder of the business school and outspoken libertarian who has developed a trademarked business philosophy called Market-Based Management. He also has written two books, one of which, Good Profit: How Creating Value for Others Built One of the World’s Most Successful Companies, lent the gathering its theme and focus.

But the markedly conservative Catholic crowd attending the Good Profit conference seemed unconcerned about politics and hot-button issues. The discussion primarily focused on the nobility of creating profit for the benefit of individuals and society, providing workers with purpose and “principled entrepreneurship.”

A second-day appearance by Cardinal Peter Turkson, appointed the first prefect of the new Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, provided a finger on the scale of the other side of such idealistic views of an unrestrained free market. His presentation, which immediately preceded that of Koch, was heavily laced with concern for workers and cautions about the excesses and dangers of the marketplace.


5. Dispelling ignorance, the enemy of peace: The Kingdom of Bahrain Declaration calls for religious tolerance and peaceful coexistence.

By Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa, Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa is the king of Bahrain, The Washington Times, October 11, 2017, Pg. B1

In the Kingdom of Bahrain, for centuries we have grown up with neighbors of all faiths, all cultures and all ethnicities, so we are happy and comfortable living in a multicultural, multifaith society, and we recognize this diversity as a natural and normal way of life for us in Bahrain.

Our noble ancestors began this Bahraini tradition of churches, synagogues and temples being built next to our mosques, so there is no ignorance about others’ religious rites or practices. We all live together in peaceful coexistence in the spirit of mutual respect and love, and we believe it is our duty to share this with the world. We believe “ignorance is the enemy of peace,” and that true faith illuminates our path to peace. For this reason, we decided to compose the Kingdom of Bahrain Declaration, calling for religious tolerance and peaceful coexistence throughout the entire world.

As Bahrainis, we drew from our national heritage as a beacon of religious tolerance in the Arab world during a time when religion has been too frequently used throughout the world as a divine sanction to spread hate and dissension.

Yet in Bahrain, religious diversity is a blessing to our people. We welcome our Catholic, Orthodox and evangelical church communities. We are proud that our Hindu nationals can worship in a 200-year-old temple complete with their images, just around the corner from the Sikh temple and the mosques.

We firmly believe this evil can only be eradicated by the power of true faith and love, and this is what compelled us to write the Kingdom of Bahrain Declaration as a serious document calling for pluralism, which “unequivocally rejects” compelled religious observance, and condemns acts of violence, abuse and incitement in the name of religion. For national leaders like myself, the declaration makes it clear that “it is the responsibility of governments to respect and protect equally both religious minorities and majorities,” and that there is no room for religious discrimination of any kind.

The Kingdom of Bahrain Declaration is a call for leaders and for the masses, and it calls upon clerics and clergy, rulers and presidents, and regular citizens to “do all within our power to ensure that religious faith is a blessing to all mankind and the foundation for peace in the world.”