1. Trump’s Excellent Judges: His four latest nominees highlight his biggest political success.

By The Wall Street Journal, October 2, 2017, Pg. A18, Review & Outlook

The start of a new Supreme Court term is a good moment to note some under-reported news: President Trump is rapidly remaking the federal appellate and district courts, with highly qualified nominees who fulfill his campaign promise to pick “constitutional conservatives.”

The speed of the nominations and the quality of the nominees is a result of the close ties between White House judicial vetters and the Federalist Society that is a national clearinghouse for conservative legal talent. Judicial nominations are arguably the most successful part of the Trump Presidency.

The Senate has confirmed only four for the appellate courts as Democrats use every possible delaying tactic. They’re even trying to disqualify Amy Coney Barrett, a nominee for the Seventh Circuit, because she’s an “orthodox Catholic,” as Senator Dick Durbin put it in a question at a Senate hearing.


2. The Latin Mass, Thriving in Southeastern Nigeria.

By Matthew Schmitz, Matthew Schmitz is senior editor of First Things and a Robert Novak journalism fellow, The New York Times, October 1, 2017, Pg. SR7

Catholics attached to the Latin Mass have suffered a great deal since the introduction of the vernacular liturgy after Vatican II. But 10 years ago, they enjoyed a sublime vindication. Pope Benedict XVI declared in his document “Summorum Pontificum” that all Catholics have the right to the traditional liturgy. “What earlier generations held as sacred, remains sacred and great for us too,” Benedict wrote. Bishop Ochiagha generously distributed copies of “Summorum” to his brother bishops in Nigeria, many of whom had criticized his support for the Latin Mass.

Though traditionalists remain a tiny minority in Nigeria, as throughout the world, their number is growing. Catholic traditionalists see the ancient language of the Latin Mass as a sign of their faith’s stability and unity, an indication that Christ is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. They would like to see it return worldwide, but for now, some of its strongest adherents have been in places like Nigeria, where historical tumult and ethnic strife have given traditionalists special reason to value this aspect of their faith.

Catholics elsewhere have largely dispensed with condemnations of modernism, along with the Latin Mass. There is something biblical in the way these things have found new life in Nigeria.

Shortly after his conversion to Catholicism, Evelyn Waugh wrote a story about a visitor to London who is cast 500 years into the future, when the city is reduced to a cluster of huts. The English inhabitants are illiterate savages who cower as colonizers from Africa motor up and down the Thames. The traveler is disoriented, until his eyes fall on something he knows. “Out of strangeness, there had come into being something familiar; a shape in chaos.” An African priest is saying the Latin Mass.

Despite centuries of reversal and tumult, something “new and yet ageless” remained. When the Latin Mass was suppressed at the end of Waugh’s life, his youthful vision of it being said forever looked like folly. If it seems likelier today, it is due in part to people like Bishop Ochiagha and the worshippers here who have preserved an inheritance rejected by others. Against all odds, the body of Christ remains “a shape in chaos,” marked but unbroken by the passing of time.


3. Pope urges Europeans to embrace unity, reject nationalism.

By Associated Press, October 1, 2017, 12:58 PM

Pope Francis is urging Europeans not to fear unity and to put aside nationalistic and other self-interests.

Francis said: “Don’t be afraid of unity! May special interests and nationalism not render the courageous dreams of the founders of the European Union in vain.”

The Vatican has indicated it doesn’t support the independence effort in Catalonia, denying a Catalan cleric’s claim earlier that it would immediately recognize an independent Catalonia. Spain’s bishops have urged dialogue in the dispute.


4. In Middle East, waiting for ‘right time’ to help Christians a fool’s errand.

By John L. Allen Jr., Editor, Crux, October 1, 2017

The psychology of people who live amid war and chaos all the time, as opposed to those who don’t, is quite different.

The effort I’m referring to is the Nineveh Plains Reconstruction Project, a joint project of the three major Christian churches in northern Iraq – the Chaldean Catholic church, the Syriac Catholic church and the Syriac Orthodox church – to rebuild a series of historically Christian villages and towns in the region.

Sponsored by Aid to the Church in Need and backed by a variety of public and private actors, including the government of Hungary and the Knights of Columbus, the idea is to try to help roughly 100,000 Christians driven from their homes in the Nineveh Plains by ISIS in 2014 to rebuild their lives, thereby preserving the Christian presence in the region.

So far, enough rebuilding has been carried out to allow roughly 17 percent of those displaced Christians to go home, and Aid to the Church in Need has launched an ambitious “Marshall Plan” to get the rest of the work done and to help rebuild the communities in which those returning Christians hope to put down roots. They’re trying to raise $250 million for it, hoping some of that total will come from the $1.4 billion in the 2018 U.S. budget earmarked for support of genocide victims in Iraq and Syria.

It’s a creative, serious undertaking, and on Thursday organizers and sponsors gathered at Rome’s Lateran University to present it to the world. The event drew high-level Vatican backing, including the presence of Italian Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican’s Secretary of State; Italian Cardinal Mauro Piacenza, the president of Aid to the Church in Need; and Archbishop Alberto Ortega Martin, the papal ambassador in Iraq.

On Thursday, I brought one key question to the people I met: What’s the impact of the Sept. 25th independence vote in Kurdistan going to be on your ability to get this done?

Some 93 percent of Kurds voted to separate from Iraq, leading to closed borders and airports and threats of crippling oil pipeline shutdowns by Turkey, and raising the specter of new conflict in precisely the area where the reconstruction project is going on. (The Nineveh Plains overlap the border between Iraq and Kurdish-controlled territory, with some villages and towns on one side of the line and some on the other.)

My practical, American instinct was two-fold:

[1.] If borders are closed and relations between Iraq and Kurdistan unravel, then logistically, how can the project go forward? How do you get materials and personnel back and forth, how can you guarantee that work conditions will be secure, and how do you know that whatever you rebuild today won’t just be knocked down again tomorrow?

[2.] If the shadow of new conflict hangs over the Nineveh Plains, how do you persuade Christians to come back in the first place? Why would they? (As another American attending the event put it to me afterwards, “I don’t know about this thing … would you put your wife and kids in that place?”)

Mainly, what I picked up in response was that the questions reveal I just don’t quite get the Middle East.

The clear message was that in the Middle East, if you sit around and wait for the “right moment” to try to get something done, the most likely result is that you’ll never do anything.
Somebody who’s been around the Middle East a long time broke it down for me.

This person told me that my question about the impact of the Kurdish vote on the viability of the reconstruction effort is perfectly legitimate, but at the same time, I have to accept that it’s going to seem puzzling and almost silly to most of the people to whom I was directing it.

The Christians of the Middle East, he said, have learned to accept that they live on the brink of chaos pretty much all the time, and they’ve become extraordinarily artful about getting things done anyway. To them, asking if we should wait for guarantees of peace and stability before moving forward is almost as ridiculous as asking an American contractor if construction shouldn’t be delayed until the law of gravity is suspended, so workers can simply float to the upper floors of their site.

Bottom line: The threat of war, of things falling part, is normality in the Middle East. If you can’t work under those conditions, then you can’t work at all.


5. Pope Francis wants the Catholic Church to tackle ‘fake news’.

By Inés San Martín, Crux, October 1, 2017

“Fake news” and journalism as a force for peace are the themes chosen by Pope Francis for the Church-sponsored World Day of Social Communications 2018.

As usual, the actual theme includes a Biblical quote: “‘The truth will set you free.’ Fake news and journalism for peace,” with the famous Scriptural phrase drawn from the Gospel of John.

For the first time since a pope issued a message for World Communications Day in 1967, the theme was also announced by the pope via Twitter.

According to a statement released by the Vatican’s Secretariat for Communications, the message is directly linked to so-called fake news, “namely, baseless information that contributes to generating and nurturing a strong polarization of opinions.”

Given the fact that key internet companies, institutions and the world of politics all have begun to address the phenomenon, which involves “an often misleading distortion of facts, with possible repercussions at the level of individual and collective behavior,” the Church too, wants to contribute, the statement said.


6. Controversial ad campaign promotes abortion as Catholic social justice issue. 

By Christopher White, Crux, September 30, 2017

Catholics for Choice, a group that has been repeatedly described by the U.S. bishops as not representing authentic Catholic teaching, launched a new nationwide advertising campaign earlier this week endorsing public funding for abortion.

The ads are running in papers throughout the country, including The Washington Post, The Chicago Sun Times, The Marion Reader, and the Harrisburg Register and state that “public funding for abortion is a Catholic social justice value.”

Their campaign has been met by sharp criticism by pro-life advocates across the country.
“The preferential option for the poor calls us to stand with women and their unborn children alike,” said Deirdre McQuade, assistant director for pro-life communications at the United States Conference for Catholic Bishops.

According to Kristen Day, executive director of Democrats for Life, “Catholics for Choice’s tactic to target and oppose a longstanding bipartisan agreement to prohibit taxpayer funding of abortion not only goes against the Church’s teachings but also contrasts the majority opinion of American voters.”

Catholics for Choice was founded in 1973 to promote “a woman’s moral and legal right to follow her conscience in matters of sexuality and reproductive health.”

In an op-ed for the Washington Examiner earlier this week, senior policy advisor for The Catholic Association, Maureen Ferguson said “‘Catholics for Choice’ is not an authentic voice for any faith, but rather is just another abortion advocacy group with misleading letterhead and a horrid message.”


7. ‘Hail Mary,’ From the Gridiron to Politics: A phrase used to describe the latest bid to repeal the Affordable Care Act has deep football roots.

By Ben Zimmer, The Wall Street Journal, September 30, 2017, Pg. C4

The latest attempt by Senate Republicans to overturn the Affordable Care Act was always a bit of a long shot. Before it was pulled from consideration by the Senate GOP leadership earlier this week, the Graham-Cassidy bill was frequently described in media accounts as a “Hail Mary,” borrowing a familiar phrase from football.

From the football field to the Senate chamber, the phrase describes a desperate maneuver when no other options are available.

How did “Hail Mary” become the go-to sports metaphor for a last-minute bid to beat the odds and scratch out a victory? Football fans know the “Hail Mary play” as a long pass attempt made as a final play by a trailing team. 

As the name of a devotional prayer, “Hail Mary” dates back to the 14th century in English, a translation from the Latin “Ave Maria,” the first two words in a petition directed at the Virgin Mary. For Catholics, reciting the Hail Mary is a key element of Rosary prayers.

A 1922 game between Notre Dame and Georgia Tech brought the phrase into football usage. One of Notre Dame’s feared “Four Horsemen,” Jim Crowley, later recounted how a Presbyterian player, Noble Kizer, rallied his Catholic teammates by having them say a Hail Mary. Following a prayer in the huddle, they scored a touchdown. 

But it was Dallas Cowboys quarterback Roger Staubach, half a century later, who popularized the “Hail Mary play.” That phrase was first attached to Mr. Staubach in December 1971, when his erstwhile coach at the Naval Academy, Wayne Hardin, shared the story of a miraculous scrambling pass in a game against Michigan. “Let’s call it my Hail Mary play,” Mr. Staubach told his coach afterward.

Four years later, after a dramatic playoff game between the Cowboys and the Minnesota Vikings, Mr. Staubach revived the expression to describe his game-winning touchdown pass, a long bomb to wide receiver Drew Pearson. “I guess you’d call it a Hail Mary pass,” he said. “You throw it up and pray he catches it.”

That stupendous play solidified “Hail Mary” in football circles, and soon it was being used more generally for desperate acts with limited chances of success—including political acts. 

Whether it’s on the gridiron or on Capitol Hill, one thing is clear: It’s dangerous to count on divine intervention.


8. Pope re-ups Cardinal Raymond Burke at Vatican’s supreme court.

By Crux, September 30, 2017

Pope Francis on Saturday renewed the membership of American Cardinal Raymond Burke on the Apostolic Signatura, thereby extending his presence at the Vatican’s supreme court, a body Burke led until he was removed from that position by Francis in 2014.

At various points, Francis also has removed or failed to reappoint Burke as a member of the Vatican’s powerful Congregation for Bishops and its Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, responsible for liturgical policy.

Burke is widely perceived as a critic of Francis on certain key points, above all the pontiff’s cautious opening to Communion for the divorced and civilly remarried in his document Amoris Laetitia. Burke was among four cardinals, two of whom are now deceased, who submitted a list of questions to Francis, called dubia, seeking to end what they described as “grave confusion.”

While Burke’s views on theology, liturgy and politics often have proven controversial over the years, few have ever disputed his abilities as an expert on canon law, meaning the official body of law for the Catholic Church.


9. Religious leaders are fed up with discrimination against churches in disaster aid.

By Catholic News Agency, September 30, 2017, 4:02 PM

Federal disaster relief policy denies repair and reconstruction assistance to houses of worship – and that needs to change, the U.S. bishops and other religious leaders have said.

“Firefighters don’t refuse to put out a fire because the fire is at a synagogue. The police don’t refuse to investigate a break-in because burglars targeted a church. And FEMA should not refuse houses of worship the same aid that it offers other non-profits,” Catholic and Jewish leaders wrote in USA Today.

“If a house of worship meets all the criteria for aid, it should be eligible to receive that aid on par with everyone else. Regardless of how FEMA treats us, however, we will still be present in our communities,” they continued. “We will feed the hungry, care for the orphan and elder, shelter the homeless, and welcome the immigrant.”

Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston and Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami joined Rabbi Barry Gelman of United Orthodox Synagogues of Houston and Rabbi Efrem Goldberg of Boca Raton Synagogue in writing the Sept. 27 opinion piece objecting to the policy of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

They advocated the passage of the Federal Disaster Assistance Nonprofit Fairness Act of 2017. Similar legislation passed the House of Representatives in 2013 by a vote of 354-72. The Senate failed to support it, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said in a backgrounder on the legislation.

Under FEMA policy and the Stafford Act, nonprofits that are open to the public such as museums, libraries, community centers, and homeless shelters are eligible for federal aid for structural repairs if they are damaged in disasters. However, churches, synagogues, and mosques are not.

Proposed legislation to change this policy has the backing of Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, and Bishop Mitchell T. Rozanski of Springfield, Massachusetts, who chairs the bishops’ Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs.


10. Here come Trump’s judges.

By Nicole Russell, The Washington Examiner, September 29, 2017, 12:04 PM

President Trump has bungled many things, from tweeting at all hours of the day and night and calling out private citizens, to accusations that he knew about Russia meddling with our election and that his family participated.

One thing he has not screwed up: Nominating the right people for federal judgeships.

How can we tell? Because they keep getting intense criticism. A few weeks ago during hearings, the Senate Judiciary Committee proved this by relentlessly interrogating some of his nominees, including Amy Barrett. Barrett, a Notre Dame Law Professor and former clerk for Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, was repeatedly grilled about her devout Catholic faith.

Recently the New York Times piled on, claiming, “Ms. Barrett told the senators that she was a faithful Catholic, and that her religious beliefs would not affect her decisions as an appellate judge. But her membership in a small, tightly knit Christian group called People of Praise never came up at the hearing, and might have led to even more intense questioning.”

Andrea Picciotti-Bayer, Legal Advisor for The Catholic Association Foundation said in a statement:

Notre Dame Law Professor Amy Barrett is an incredibly intelligent woman who is superbly qualified to sit on the federal bench. Finding no flaws in her credentials, critics have sunk to a new low by attacking her faith. The New York Times insinuates impropriety in Professor Barrett’s possible choice to deepen her faith within a group of other Catholics. With nothing of substance undermining Professor Barrett’s nomination, her opponents are left bashing the rights to religion and association guaranteed by our Constitution.


11. Cheap Sex and the Decline of Marriage: Why is marriage in retreat among young Americans? Because it is now much easier for men to find sexual satisfaction outside marriage, argues Mark Regnerus. 

By Mark Regnerus, Dr. Regnerus is associate professor of sociology at the University of Texas at Austin, The Wall Street Journal, September 30, 2017, Pg. C3

Marriage in the U.S. is in open retreat. As recently as 2000, married 25- to 34-year-olds outnumbered their never-married peers by a margin of 55% to 34%, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. By 2015, the most recent year for which data are available, those estimates had almost reversed, with never-marrieds outnumbering marrieds by 53% to 40%. Young Americans have quickly become wary of marriage.

Many economists and sociologists argue that this flight from marriage is about men’s low wages. If they were higher, the argument goes, young men would have the confidence to marry. But recent research doesn’t support this view.

Another hypothesis blames the decline of marriage on men’s fear of commitment. Maybe they just perceive marriage as a bad deal. But most men, including cads such as Kevin, still expect to marry. They eventually want to fall in love and have children, when their independence becomes less valuable to them. They are waiting longer, however, which is why the median age at marriage for American men has risen steadily and is now approaching 30.

My own research points to a more straightforward and primal explanation for the slowed pace toward marriage: For American men, sex has become rather cheap. As compared to the past, many women today expect little in return for sex, in terms of time, attention, commitment or fidelity. Men, in turn, do not feel compelled to supply these goods as they once did. It is the new sexual norm for Americans, men and women alike, of every age.

This transformation was driven in part by birth control. Its widespread adoption by women in recent decades not only boosted their educational and economic fortunes but also reduced their dependence on men. As the risk of pregnancy radically declined, sex shed many of the social and personal costs that once encouraged women to wait.

The birth-control pill is not the only sexual technology that has altered expectations. Online porn has made sexual experience more widely and easily available too. A laptop never says no, and for many men, virtual women are now genuine competition for real partners. In the same survey, 46% of men (and 16% of women) under 40 reported watching pornography at some point in the past week—and 27% in the past day.

Many young men and women still aspire to marriage as it has long been conventionally understood—faithful, enduring, focused on raising children. But they no longer seem to think that this aspiration requires their discernment, prudence or self-control.