1. The Democratic debates and the radical abortion lobby, There was dishonest fearmongering and talk of packing the Supreme Court.

By Marjorie Dannenfelser, The Washington Times, October 21, 2019, Pg. B1, Opinion

The radical abortion lobby, feeling left out of recent Democratic primary debates, spent the lead-up to Tuesday night’s debate demanding moderators “#Ask-AboutAbortion.” It’s a fair point that the topic has gone mostly unaddressed.

They got their wish — sort of. There was plenty of talk about “reproductive rights,” “codifying Roe v. Wade” and “women controlling their own bodies.” There was plenty of dishonest fearmongering. There was even discussion of packing the U.S. Supreme Court with an expanded bench of pro-abortion justices.

And yet, even when asked the most loaded questions, there was little discussion of abortion itself.

Many commentators have rightly observed a rift on the pro-abortion left over how to talk about abortion. Some candidates try to walk a fine line between appeasing a far-left base and alienating mainstream Americans, including rank-and-file Democrats, with their deeply unpopular agenda.

But semantics is only part of the story. When it comes to their record, the rift disappears and they are united in lockstep with the abortion lobby. Every candidate who had the opportunity in Congress to support lifesaving medical care for babies who survive abortions has refused to do so. They have repeatedly voted yes to extreme late-term abortions. And they all want American taxpayers forced to fund unlimited abortion.

In politics, clarity is a gift. Democratic contenders are still working to keep voters in the dark about exactly how extreme they really are — and we in the pro-life movement are working to expose the truth.

Marjorie Dannenfelser is president of the national pro-life group Susan B. Anthony List.


2. Arlington Diocese: Priest resigns, admits to sexually abusing minor.

By Martin Weil, The Washington Post, October 21, 2019, Pg. B3

The priest of a Northern Virginia church has admitted to sexual contact with a minor at a different church and has resigned from his post, according to the Arlington Diocese.

In a letter released by the diocese Saturday, Bishop Michael F. Burbidge disclosed that the Rev. Christopher Mould was no longer be pastor of St. Andrew the Apostle Church in Clifton.

Mould admitted Tuesday that he “had sexual contact with a minor on one occasion” while parochial vicar at St. Thomas à Becket Church in Reston from 1992 to 1995, according to the bishop’s letter, which was posted on the diocese’s website.

In the letter, Burbidge emphasized that before the recent “admission of guilt,” the Arlington Diocese had never received a complaint of sexual abuse or misconduct against Mould.


3. Coptic Christians in Egypt fear martyrs are being forgotten.

By Christopher White, Crux, October 21, 2019

The last body of the 21 people beheaded by ISIS on a Libyan beach in 2015 will soon be reunited with the rest of the 20 Coptic Christian martyrs in a newly built shrine honoring their memory in one of most prominent hotbeds of Christian persecution in the country.

Libya’s ambassador to Egypt has agreed to the transfer of the body, marking the latest development in a saga that horrified the world with the release of a video by the Islamic State in February 2015 showing the beheading of 21 men – 20 of whom were Coptic Christians from Egypt, along with a Ghanaian Christian companion – handcuffed and dressed as prisoners in orange jumpsuits.

As they were killed, the men were said to be chanting Christian hymns and praying to Jesus.

After their bodies were discovered in 2017, the 20 Egyptians were transferred back home in 2018. Now, the Libyan government has agreed to transfer the body of the Ghanaian, Matthew Ayariga, which has until now gone unclaimed, to the Martyrs of Faith and Homeland Church, built as a shrine to the 21 men who sacrificed their lives for the Christian faith.

Pope Tawadros II, head of the Coptic Orthodox Church, has already declared the men to be saints and their feast day on the Orthodox calendar is on February 15, the feast day of the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple.

Pope Francis has spoken of the 21 martyrs on multiple occasions since their gruesome death, writing to Tawdros to say that “today more than ever we are united by the ecumenism of blood, which further encourages us on the path towards peace and reconciliation.”

Although the Catholic Church has not officially recognized the men as saints, Francis has repeatedly referred to the men as martyrs.


4. Ironic collision of two Sunday stories raises question of what a “poor Church” means.

By John L. Allen Jr., Editor, Crux, October 21, 2019

Two headlines on Crux yesterday make the point anew: “Amazon bishops pledge poverty,” alongside “Leaked documents detail $200 million Vatican deal for swanky London property.”

On Sunday morning, roughly 40 bishops taking part in the Oct. 6-27 Synod of Bishops on the Amazon trekked out to the Catacombs of St. Domitilla in Rome in order to renew a pact originally signed at the Second Vatican Council in 1965, pledging themselves, among other things, to a “happily sober lifestyle” in contrast to what they called an “avalanche of consumerism,” vowing to live in a manner that’s “simple and in solidarity with those who have little or nothing.”

On their way to the signing, however, they may have seen a feature article in the Italian news magazine L’Espresso based on leaked Vatican documents that detail the fashion in which the Secretariat of State, possibly in violation of the Vatican’s own norms on financial transactions, ended up owning a former Harrod’s warehouse in the swanky London district of Chelsea destined to be converted into luxury apartments.

So far, five Vatican employees have been suspended in an investigation of the affair while the commander of the Vatican gendarmes, Italian layman Domenico Giani, was compelled to resign due to leaks of the details of that same investigation.

What the ironic juxtaposition of the two stories on the same day illustrates is a chronic confusion within the Church about what an “option for the poor” actually means.

Does it mean bishops spurning luxury, rejecting the use of plastics and taking public transportation, as the new-fangled “Pact of the Catacombs” suggests? Or does it mean the Vatican making intelligent use of the considerable resources at its disposal, generating additional funds for its humanitarian scope?

Can it, perhaps, mean both? Such are the contradictions of Catholicism – a religion so vast, in the immortal words of Walt Whitman, that it contains multitudes.


5. One Cure for Malnutrition Of the Soul.

By Timothy Egan, The New York Times, October 20, 2019, Pg. SR10, Opinion

Not long ago, I found myself inside a place that claims to be the oldest church in the English-speaking world — St. Martin’s in Canterbury, England, a few steps from the start of the ancient pilgrimage trail of the Via Francigena. It was my first stop on a pathway of more than a thousand miles, a trail from that modest clump of sixth-century stone and brick to the Vatican home of a pope struggling to hold together the world’s 1.3 billion Roman Catholics.

Outside St. Martin’s was a small welcoming sign: “We do not have all the answers. We are on a spiritual journey.” Inside, there were no more than 20 people at a midmorning Sunday service.

At times, we have trouble seeing history as it slowly pivots. But we are at a moment that’s been building for a century. Britain — and much of Europe, the theological cradle of Christianity — has perhaps never been so removed from belief in God. Elsewhere, the world is becoming more religious, and Christianity is growing, robustly so in China and Africa. With 2.2 billion followers, the faith that began as a small Jewish sect is by far the planet’s most popular and diverse religion. But in Europe, where the rules of the spiritual here and hereafter were shaped over centuries of bloodshed, it’s all a shrug.

We are spiritual beings. But for many of us, malnutrition of the soul is a plague of modern life. That’s one reason 200 million people worldwide a year make some form of religious pilgrimage.


6. Vatican II’s forgotten apostle of the poor stages comeback at Amazon synod.

By John L. Allen Jr., Editor, Crux, October 20, 2019

Because Pope Francis so often cites both the substance and the spirit of Vatican II as an inspiration for his papacy, there’s a tendency to assume he’s sort of the Latin American reincarnation of St. John XXIII, the pope who convened the council and who was canonized by Francis in 2014.

In reality, however, one could make the argument that the Vatican II figure to whom Francis is closest actually isn’t John XXIII but rather Cardinal Giacomo Lercaro of Bologna, Italy, the council’s leading apostle of the “option for the poor.”

This very day, Lercaro’s vision is staging a comeback during the Oct. 6-27 Synod of Bishops on the Amazon.

During a Mass held early this morning, a group of bishops taking part in the synod signed onto the “Pact of the Catacombs,” an agreement originally inked by 42 bishops who were members of Vatican II in 1965. The name refers to the fact that the signing took place after a Mass in the Catacombs of Domitilla about 5 miles to the south of St. Peter’s Square, in order to symbolize that the Church was at its finest when its was stripped of all earthly vanities.

Basically, the agreement amounted to a manifesto for a poor Church on the side of the poor.

In his farewell message, Lercaro said: “The pope told me to come, and I came. Now the pope tells me to go, and I go.” It was his way of getting across that he was quitting under pressure, as Pope Paul VI, now St. Paul VI, had concluded that Lercaro was simply a bridge too far for a Catholic Church struggling to maintain unity in the late 1960s.

Lercaro’s spirit nevertheless lived on in a variety of ways, among other things in the “Bologna School” of Italian Church historians Giuseppe Alberigo and Alberto Melloni and their famed history of Vatican II.

Perhaps his greatest legacy, however, was the Pact of the Catacombs and the path not taken for the Church immediately after Vatican II which it suggested. The current Synod on the Amazon thus demonstrates that sometimes, under the right circumstances and leadership, a road less traveled can turn into a superhighway.


7. Leaked documents detail $200 million Vatican deal for swanky London property.

By John L. Allen Jr., Editor, Crux, October 20, 2019

Against the backdrop of a Synod of Bishops on the Amazon dedicated to the defense of some of the world’s most impoverished people, the Vatican finds itself rocked by yet another financial scandal after publication Sunday of seamy details about a $200 million purchase of a swanky 183,000-square-foot apartment building in the Chelsea district of London.

“Hundreds of millions of Euro destined for the least and the poor are still administered opaquely and with no transparency, as if the Vatican were a merchant bank in an offshore country,” the report claims.

For Pope Francis, who came to office in 2013 on a reform mandate and who launched a sweeping reorganization of Vatican finances early in his papacy, the revelations are the latest index of how much remains to be done in terms of injecting accountability when it comes to money management.

The report in L’Espresso, a widely read Italian news magazine, was authored by journalist Emiliano Fittipaldi, who was charged by the Vatican in 2015 with illicit divulgation of confidential information amid what came to be known as the “Vatileaks II” scandal. Fittipaldi and fellow journalist Gianluigi Nuzzi were eventually absolved for lack of jurisdiction.

The L’Espresso account is based on confidential reports from Vatican investigators obtained by Fittipaldi, suggesting the possibility of yet another “Vatileaks” scandal involving the leaking of supposedly secret documentation.

According to the report published Sunday, the Secretariat of State, the Vatican’s ultra-powerful coordinating department, controls roughly $725 million in funds off the books related to the annual “Peter’s Pence” collection, which is designed to allow individual Catholics to contribute to the pope’s charitable activities.

In fact, according to Fittipaldi’s report, most of those funds are instead diverted into “reckless speculative operations,” with 77 percent of the Peter’s Pence collections entrusted to Credit Suisse, the multinational financial services and investment company founded in Switzerland.


8. Florida’s Reform Momentum, School choice expands with a new Governor and new Supreme Court.

The Wall Street Journal, October 19, 2019, Pg. A14, Review & Outlook

For policy consequences, the most important election in 2018 might have been Florida’s contest for Governor. Now we’re seeing the results, as Republican Ron DeSantis expands school vouchers and has already remade the state Supreme Court. With little fanfare this autumn, another 18,000 young Floridians joined the ranks of Americans who enjoy school choice. More than 100,000 students, all from families of modest means, already attend private schools using the state’s main tax-credit scholarship. But the wait list this spring ran to the thousands, so in May the state created a voucher program to clear the backlog.

Last week Mr. DeSantis said the vouchers have hit their initial cap of 18,000 students, but the law includes an automatic escalator. Starting in 2020-2021, the cap can rise each year by 0.25% of Florida’s total public-school enrollment. That figure, at last count, was roughly 2.8 million, meaning perhaps another 7,000 vouchers annually.

This is a huge victory for school choice.

Curiously, no big court challenge to the vouchers has appeared. Maybe the teachers unions are biding their time. Then again, maybe the hesitation is related to Mr. DeSantis’s appointment this year of three new conservative jurists to the state’s high court. There is now a 6-1 conservative majority, which might show more sympathy for religious liberty.

As it happens, the U.S. Supreme Court this term will hear a challenge to Montana’s Blaine Amendment. The ruling could take away the Blaine justification, which was born out of anti-Catholic bias in the 19th century, for striking down Florida’s vouchers. Meantime, the program will get harder to kill politically as more families sign up and see the benefits.


9. The Christian Roots of #MeToo, Historian Tom Holland argues both sides of the culture wars share similar theological assumptions—including the dignity of women, which he traces to St. Paul.

By Tunku Varadarajan, The Wall Street Journal, October 19, 2019, Pg. A13, The Weekend Interview
Mr. Varadarajan is executive editor at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution.

Mike Pompeo and William Barr both came under attack this week for speeches on religion. The secretary of state’s talk, delivered on Oct. 11 to the Association of Christian Counselors, was titled “Being a Christian Leader.” The same day, the attorney general addressed the Notre Dame Law School on the dangers of “militant” secularism.

These displays of piety from members of the president’s cabinet startled many cosmopolitan observers. Historian Tom Holland was not among them. He argues that the increasingly secular West remains as locked into Christian assumptions as it has ever been—and that Christianity is the most revolutionary cultural force in history.

Mr. Holland, 51, is a celebrated historian of the ancient world, and his latest book makes these arguments at length. Titled “Dominion: How the Christian Revolution Remade the World,” it will be published in the U.S. on Oct. 29.


10. Syria crisis tests Trump’s global religious freedom vows.

By Elana Schor, The Associated Press, October 18, 2019, 3:15 PM

The Turkish invasion of northern Syria in the wake of President Donald Trump’s troop withdrawal from the region could put to the test Trump’s stated commitment to global freedom of worship for religious minorities.

The fighting between the Turks and Kurds has raised fears for the safety of Syrian Christians, Yazidis and other minority faiths at the hands of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s mostly Muslim forces.

At the same time the crisis is unfolding, the Trump administration is proposing to drastically reduce the number of refugees admitted to the U.S. to historic lows, cutting slots nearly 80% from their 2016 levels.

As recently as last month, the president vowed to support international religious freedom around the world and rolled out plans at the United Nations for a $25 million investment in the cause.

But then he alarmed evangelical Christians and refugee advocates in the U.S. last week by withdrawing protection for America’s Kurdish allies in northern Syria, opening them to attack by the Turks, who regard them as terrorists with aspirations for their own separatist state.


11. Challenge of Louisiana abortion rules survives, for now.

By Kevin McGill, The Associated Press, October 18, 2019, 4:49 PM

A federal appeals court on Friday rejected the state of Louisiana’s request that it toss out a lawsuit challenging a broad array of Louisiana abortion regulations.

But the ruling from a three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit of Appeals ruling also said abortion rights advocates lack standing to pursue many of their claims. It said a lower court judge’s ruling allowing the entire case to proceed was in error. And the panel reserved the right to reconsider its decision after the district court judge looks at each challenged regulation individually.

The lawsuit argues that the state’s regulatory scheme as a whole creates medically unjustified barriers to legal abortion. The appeals panel said some of the claims — such as those regarding building requirements and signage — don’t harm women seeking abortions.


12. William Barr Is Right: Secularists Are Imposing Their Own Religion.

By Andrea Picciotti-Bayer, The Daily Signal, October 18, 2019
Andrea Picciotti-Bayer is legal advisor for the Catholic Association Foundation.

Attorney General William Barr gave a powerful speech last week on religious liberty in America at Notre Dame Law School. If you missed it, it’s well worth reading.

Barr traced the central role of religious liberty in our nation’s history and the importance of a morally disciplined and virtuous citizenry for maintaining a free government such as ours. He also took note of the current threat of secularism and moral relativism.

“Progressive” ideologies clearly are attacking religious freedom here at home. The trampling of conscience rights in our culture wars is serious. Even more dangerous is how a rejection of religious freedom plays out on the international scene.

If we stop caring about religious freedom here at home, will we continue to care about confronting the atrocities committed by religious radicals and oppressive regimes abroad? Something tells me we won’t care as much.

But to be sure, Barr’s exhortation is much-needed. We must “resist efforts by the forces of secularization to drive religious viewpoints from the public square and to impinge upon the free exercise of our faith.”

This is necessary not only to preserve religious freedom at home, but abroad as well.


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