1. Maverick image aside, sometimes Pope’s more evolution than revolution.

By John L. Allen Jr., Crux, October 17, 2017


Two stories about Pope Francis over the last few days have elicited either praise or criticism, depending on one’s point of view, but also pivoting on a perception that’s actually questionable: To wit, that once again, this maverick pontiff is breaking the mold.


The first story came on Thursday, when Francis spoke at a conference celebrating the 25th anniversary of publication of the Catechism of the Catholic Church under St. Pope John Paul II, and called for a firmly abolitionist stance on the death penalty in official Catholic teaching.


“It must be strongly stated that condemning a person to the death penalty is an inhumane measure,” the pope said.


“It is, of itself, contrary to the Gospel, because it is freely decided to suppress a human life that is always sacred,” he added. “In the final analysis, God alone is the true judge and guarantor.”


Recognizing that such a position marks a step forward in official Catholic teaching, Francis added that “doctrine cannot be conserved without allowing it to progress.


The other story came on Sunday, when Francis announced his intention to convene a special Synod of Bishops in October 2019 made up of prelates from the Pan-Amazonian region, meaning Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guyana, Guyana, Perú, Venezuela, and Surinam.


The main purpose, he said, is to discuss evangelization in the region, with special attention to the oft-forgotten indigenous persons of the Amazon.


It was seen as a vintage Francis touch, inverting the usual priorities by giving more attention to the peripheries than to the self-proclaimed “center” – note, for instance, he’s certainly not calling a special synod for Western Europe or North America. The gathering is also expected to have a strong social justice imprint, in which issues such as environmental protection, a just distribution of land, workers’ rights and income inequalities will all figure prominently.



2. The Still-Acceptable Prejudice.

By Charlotte Allen, First Things, October 17, 2017


On October 5, Notre Dame law professor Amy Coney Barrett barely—just barely—won the approval of the Senate Judiciary Committee for her nomination to the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Nominated by President Trump on May 8, Barrett, a forthrightly traditional Catholic, garnered not a single Democratic vote (the committee tally was 11-9), and her confirmation vote in the Republican-majority Senate is expected to break down similarly along partisan lines. This for a judicial candidate whose paper qualifications are impeccable: She had been executive editor of the law review (a signifier of ultra-high grades) at the Notre Dame Law School, ranked No. 20 in the nation by U.S. News; had clerked for D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Laurence Silberman and U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia; and occupies an endowed chair at Notre Dame, where she has taught since 2010.


Goodstein duly trotted out some liberal law professors to contend that Barrett should have disclosed her People of Praise membership to the Judiciary Committee—so that Feinstein and others could grill her about that, too. “These groups can become so absorbing that it’s difficult for a person to retain individual judgment,” said one professor of constitutional law, who then continued: “I don’t think it’s discriminatory or hostile to religion to want to learn more.”


It won’t be surprising if Barrett just squeaks through her Senate floor vote, much as she just squeaked through the Judiciary Committee. Though anti-Catholicism is officially frowned upon, it’s still quite acceptable to be anti- a certain kind of Catholicism, known as faithful Catholicism.




3. US bishops call for health care protection for the most vulnerable.

By Adelaide Mena, Catholic News Agency, October 17, 2017, 6:04 AM


In the wake of an executive order issued by the Trump administration halting federal assistance for certain insurance plans, the U.S. bishops reaffirmed that helping to protect low-income persons and the vulnerable is of the utmost importance.


“This is of grave concern. The Affordable Care Act is, by no means, perfect, but as leaders attempt to address impending challenges to insurance market stability and affordability, they must not use people’s health care as leverage or as a bargaining chip,” said Bishop Frank Dewane of Venice, chairman of the U.S. bishops’  Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development in a statement.


“To do so would be to strike at the heart of human dignity and the fundamental right to health care. The poor and vulnerable will bear the brunt of such an approach.”


Trump’s decision will end a series of subsidies for lower-income enrollees in Affordable Care Act plans, which help those people reduce their cost share. The subsidies were expected to total more than $9 billion in 2018, and Congress has never appropriated the money for these cost-sharing subsidies in particular.




4. Pope Francis at Santa Marta: on the folly of hard-hearted Christians, Pope Francis ’ Daily Homily.

October 17, 2017


Pope Francis celebrated Mass in the chapel of the Casa Santa Marta on Tuesday – the Feast of St. Ignatius of Antioch, Bishop and Martyr. Following the Readings of the Day, the Holy Father reflected on the “foolishness” of those, who are unable to hear the Word of God, preferring appearances, idols, or ideologies – like the people of Jerusalem, whose faithlessness caused Our Lord to weep nostalgic tears.


The folly of those who hear not the Word


Francis’ reflection took  the word “fools”, which appears twice in the Readings, as his starting point: Jesus says it to the Pharisees (Lk 11: 37-41), while St. Paul refers to the Pagans (Rm 1: 16-25). St. Paul had also deployed the term to refer to the Christians of Galatia, whom he called “fools” because they let themselves be duped by “new ideas”. This word, “more than a condemnation,” explained Pope Francis, “is a signal,” for it shows the way of foolishness leading to corruption. “These three groups of fools are corrupt,” Pope Francis said.




5. Senate votes to confirm Callista Gingrich as Vatican envoy.

By Richard Lardner, Associated Press, October 16, 2017


The Republican-led Senate on Monday confirmed Callista Gingrich, wife of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, as the U.S. ambassador to the Vatican.


Senators approved her nomination, 70-23, with more than 20 Democrats joining Republicans in backing her for the post. Newt Gingrich is an ally of Trump, who had announced in May that he would nominate the former congressman’s wife.


Callista Gingrich is president of Gingrich Productions and has produced a number of documentaries, including one about Pope John Paul II. She worked for the House Committee on Agriculture as chief clerk until 2007. She was a key figure in her husband’s 2012 bid for the Republican presidential nomination.




6. Paris Statement Defends Old Europe and Its Values.

By Rev. James V. Schall, S.J., Crisis Magazine, October 16, 2017


Aristotle had trouble comprehending the feasibility of Alexander’s Empire. It was designed to accommodate itself to all conquered peoples under his grandiose rule of common brotherhood and law. It seemed like such a noble scheme. This empire, stretching from Macedonia and Africa to India, was a vast and complicated undertaking. Aristotle thought that it would encourage an irresponsible random, undisciplined freedom. It would take a divine mind to rule it. In comparison with Alexander’s empire, even with sophisticated technology, the size and complexity of Europe and the world today make the divine mind even more necessary to cope with the varied deficiencies and goals of ambitious men.


The just-published document, “A Europe We Can Believe In,” maintains, in effect, that the European Union officials, under another guise, have assigned to themselves precisely this divine mind. They think themselves capable of replacing the old varied Europe with a collective, even globalized entity run not by Alexander, the Romans, the Popes, the emperors, or even the parliaments, but by themselves, by efficient bureaucrats, intellectuals, and scientists. They would allot, distribute, and administer everything in due proportion to the needs of peoples everywhere.


Such a development is the “false Europe” that has arrogated to itself the real genius of what was once known as the Europe of nations, with its diverse lands, with a common spirit and tradition. This “Paris Statement” was signed by ten well-known scholars from various European countries—Rémi Brague, Roger Scruton, Robert Spaemann, Ryszard Legutko, and six others. Significantly, no Italian, Spanish, Irish, Greek, Balkan, or Scandinavian name was signatory. The document can be classified as a conservative “manifesto,” provided we recognize that what it is trying to “conserve” is the very reality of “what it is to be Europe” seen in the relative autonomy of its different nation-states.


American and European conservatism has in common a shared understanding of the Greek, Roman, and Christian understanding of man and the world. They see the origins of utopianism itself within the realm of western political philosophy. They see that in many ways the “false Europe” is a Christian heresy that seeks to establish by human power alone a purified Kingdom in this world, one that solves by political and technical, not moral and religious, means, the chief disorders of man that keep recurring in his history.


The Paris Statement describes the actual human nature that we have been given. It seeks a home in this world, one that recognizes that man’s final end is transcendent. We can only keep and live in our European dwellings if we realize that, lovely as they are, they are not our final homes.