1. Critics of Pope Francis establish new academy for human life and family.

By Charles Collins, Crux, October 31, 2017

Several former members of the Vatican’s official Pontifical Academy of Life have formed a new independent academy, nearly a year after Pope Francis issued new statutes for the institution founded by Pope St. John Paul II in 1994.

Austrian Josef Seifert, a professor of philosophy, announced the new “John Paul II Academy for Human Life and the Family” on Oct. 28 at a Rome conference on Humanae Vitae, the 1968 encyclical by Blessed Pope Paul VI which reaffirmed the Church’s prohibition against artificial contraception.

Francis issued new statutes for the pontifical academy in November 2016 to widen the scope of its activity and research on life issues, while at the same time terminating the academy’s membership.

In June, Francis named new members to the academy, who would serve five-year, renewable terms.

For the first time, non-Catholics were appointed, and critics complained that some of the members held views contrary to Catholic teaching on certain issues, such as euthanasia.

In announcing his new academy, Siefert said the former members of the Academy for Life had “made a commitment” to support the goals intended by John Paul.

He also said the new institution would be a “lay nongovernmental organization that will remain independent of civil and religious organizations.”


2. Journalist prosecuted for ‘Vatileaks’ scandal pens new book.

By Nicole Winfield, Associated Press, October 31, 2017, 8:05 AM

An Italian journalist who was put on trial by the Vatican for divulging confidential documents is coming out with a new book promising to reveal fresh secrets about sex, crimes and money in the Holy See.

Gianluigi Nuzzi’s “Original Sin: Secret Accounts, Hidden Truths, Blackmail and the Forces Blocking Pope Francis’ Revolution” hits bookshelves in Italy and France on Nov. 9, The Associated Press has learned.

Some of the documents reproduced in the book come from the archives of the Vatican bank, the Institute for Religious Works, which was the subject of Nuzzi’s first big expose on the Holy See’s opaque finances, “Vatican SpA.” Overall, the new book covers the period from Pope Paul VI in the 1960s to Pope Francis, according to people familiar with the book.


3. Religious people more likely to give to charity, study shows.

By Bradford Richardson, the Washington Times, October 31, 2017, Pg. A7

Newly released data show that the religious among us are more likely to give to charities than those who do not identify with a faith tradition.

The data result from the Philanthropy Panel Study, an ongoing project at the University of Indiana’s Lilly Family School of Philanthropy that tracks U.S. household giving.

David King, director of the Institute on Faith & Giving at the school, said the “Giving USA Special Report on Giving to Religion,” released on Oct. 26 by The Giving Institute, reaffirms what many researchers in the field have long known: that there is a “substantial connection between religion and giving.”


The report says there is a “staggering difference between the charitable giving practices of the religiously affiliated and those with no religious affiliation.” While 62 percent of religious households give to charity, only 46 percent of nonreligious households do.

On average, religiously affiliated households donate $1,590 to charity annually, while households with no religious affiliation contribute $695.


4. Trump appeals court pick declared ‘not qualified’ by American Bar Association committee.

By Kyle Swenson, The Washington Post, October 31, 2017, 6:43 AM

For the second time this year, the American Bar Association (ABA) committee that vets federal judicial nominees has come out publicly against a Trump administration choice for a judgeship, declaring Leonard Steven Grasz “not qualified” to fill a vacancy on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit.

Grasz is an Omaha lawyer with the firm of Husch Blackwell LLP. He served as chief deputy attorney general of Nebraska for 11 years, defending, among other things, the state’s prohibition on “partial birth abortion.”

Nebraska Republican Sen. Ben Sasse, a backer of Grasz’s nomination, blasted the ABA’s judgment. “It’s sad that the ABA would contort their ratings process to try to tarnish Steve’s professional reputation in order to drive a political agenda,” he said in a statement reported by the Omaha World-Herald.

The committee cited a law review article in which Grasz wrote that “abortion jurisprudence is, to a significant extent, a word game,” and that the judicial system “should have construed the 14th Amendment as granting a ‘partially born’ fetus right to life that overruled a mother’s right to choose.”


5. On contraception, church must continue to defend life, cardinal says.

By Junno Arocho Esteves, Crux, October 30, 2017

The acceptance of artificial contraception by some Christian churches and communities beginning in the 1930s has led “to the monstrosity of what is today known as procreative medicine,” which includes abortion, said German Cardinal Walter Brandmüller.

Inaugurating an Oct. 28 conference anticipating the 50th anniversary of Blessed Pope Paul VI’s encyclical Humanae Vitae, Brandmüller told participants that in ignoring traditional church teaching men and women today have seated themselves “on the throne of the Creator.”

In Humanae Vitae, published in 1968, Paul underlined the responsibility that goes with human sexuality and marriage. While he taught that couples can space the birth of their children for valid reasons, they must use only natural methods of avoiding fertility. Birth control, he said, causes an “artificial separation” of the unitive and procreative aspects of married love.

Humanae Vitae proves that ultimately, it is the Holy Spirit that guides the process of “paradosis,” or teaching based on church tradition, and “ensures that the faith of the church develops in the course of time” while remaining faithful to Christ’s teachings, Brandmüller said.

Brandmüller, former president of the Pontifical Commission for Historical Sciences, was one of four cardinals who formally asked Pope Francis to clarify his teaching on Communion for the divorced and civilly remarried. When the four prelates did not receive a response, they released the letter – commonly referred to as the “dubia” – to the press.


6. Senate Approves Barrett Nomination Despite Dem’s ‘Frightening’ Religious Litmus Test.

By Abigail Robertson, CBN News, October 30, 2017

The US Senate has confirmed Amy Coney Barrett of Indiana to be US circuit judge for the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Barrett made headlines during her confirmation hearing when Democratic Sen. Diane Feinstein argued that Barrett’s Catholic religious beliefs were too prominent in her life.

Republican senators joined Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell ahead of Barrett’s confirmation vote in a press conference to say they think Feinstein’s comments were unacceptable and unconstitutional.

New York Times best selling author and radio host Eric Metaxas says it is “frightening” to see a US senator question a nominee this way. 

“To me the idea that US senators are this ignorant about this incredibly, utterly central element in American freedom, I find frightening and it should be a wakeup call to everybody,” Metaxas told CBN News. “When Sen. Feinstein did this recently, I thought, ‘She actually thinks that what she’s saying is okay. She thinks it’s just politics.’ It’s not just politics. It’s fundamentally unconstitutional.”

Maureen Ferguson, senior policy advisor with The Catholic Association, agrees with Metaxas, saying the senators should know better than to give a nominee a religious litmus test. 

“Senators Feinstein and Durbin know full well that the Constitution prohibits any religious test for office, yet they proceeded with an offensive grilling of a highly qualified judicial nominee, Amy Coney Barrett, asking inappropriate questions about her Catholic faith,” Ferguson said in a statement.