1. Birth Control Exemptions Are Revised.

By Robert Pear, The New York Times, October 31, 2018, Pg. A20

Having lost in two federal courts and fearing more setbacks, the Trump administration is revising rules that allow employers to deny women insurance coverage for contraceptives based on religious or moral objections.

Administration officials hope that the changes, the details of which remain unclear, will overcome the judges’ objections without fundamentally altering the purpose or the effects of the rules.

The Little Sisters of the Poor, an order of Roman Catholic nuns, told the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, in San Francisco, last week that it should rule on the critical legal questions in the case “even if and when the agencies issue yet another version of their rule.”

Among those questions is whether the religious exemption is legal or whether it violates provisions of the Constitution barring the establishment of religion and guaranteeing equal protection of the laws.

Mr. Trump’s efforts to roll back the contraceptive coverage mandate were inspired, in part, by the Little Sisters. “I will make absolutely certain religious orders like the Little Sisters of Poor are not bullied by the federal government because of their religious beliefs,” he said a month before the 2016 election.

2. Alabama justice says murder ruling questions Roe, Slain woman’s fetus defined as ‘person’.

By Alex Swoyer, The Washington Times, October 31, 2018, Pg. A1

As the Alabama Supreme Court upheld the state’s fetal homicide law in a ruling this month, one of the justices said the decision should force the U.S. Supreme Court to revisit its 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling.

Justice Tom Parker said it is a “logical fallacy” for the government to consider a fetus a life for the purposes of a murder conviction but not when it comes to a woman deciding to end her pregnancy.

Even lawyers within the pro-life community were conflicted on whether that is the kind of challenge the high court would — or even should — take up, but they said the dissonance between abortion jurisprudence and other areas of law, where a fetus is granted many of the attributes of personhood, is becoming tenuous.

“Fetal homicide laws acknowledge what science has already proven: that a unique human life begins at the very moment of fertilization. Abortion laws reject that reality,” said Lila Rose, a prominent pro-life advocate and president of Live Action.


3. Pakistan Islamists Protest as Christian Woman Freed in Blasphemy Case.

By Reuters, October 31, 2018

Pakistan’s Supreme Court on Wednesday freed a Christian woman from a death sentence for blasphemy against Islam and overturned her conviction, sparking angry protests and death threats from an ultra-religious party and cheers from human rights advocates.

Asia Bibi, a mother of four, has been living on death row since 2010 when she became the first woman to be sentenced to death by hanging under Pakistan’s draconian blasphemy laws, which critics say are too harsh and often misused.

She was condemned for allegedly making derogatory remarks about Islam after neighbors objected to her drinking water from their glass because she was not Muslim.

Bibi has always denied blasphemy.

The case outraged Christians worldwide and been a source of division within Pakistan, where two politicians who sought to help Bibi were assassinated.

In February, Bibi’s husband, Ashiq Masih, and one of her daughters met Pope Francis shortly before Rome’s ancient Coliseum was lit in red one evening in solidarity with persecuted Christians, and Bibi in particular.

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The pope told Bibi’s daughter: “I think often of your mother and I pray for her.”

Christians make up only about 2 percent of Pakistan’s population and are sometimes discriminated against.


4. Shifting Tectonic Plates in Eastern Christianity.

By George Weigel, First Things, October 31, 2018

ROME. While Synod-2018 was trying to grasp the polyhedron-like character of “synodality” and wrestling with the differences among sexual inclination, sexual orientation, and sexual attraction, tectonic plates were shifting beneath the surface of world Christianity. Like similar shifts in geology, which can produce tsunamis and earthquakes, dramatic movement in the underlying structures of ecclesiastical life can lead to great historical consequences. The recent decision by the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople to grant autocephaly to a unified Ukrainian Orthodox Church—which would mean that church’s independence from the Russian Orthodox Moscow patriarchate—is precisely such a dramatic, tectonic shift, perhaps the greatest in Eastern Christianity since Constantinople and Rome formally severed full communion in 1054.

This is, then, a Very Big Deal. That it got virtually no attention during Synod-2018, either inside the Synod hall or in the Synod’s “Off-Broadway” conversations, says something (not altogether edifying) about the self-absorption of Catholicism as it continues its seemingly endless wrestling with the ethics of human love, the exercise of authority in the Church, and a raft of sexual and financial scandals. But one Synod father was paying close attention to what was afoot 2,300 kilometers northeast of here, and that was the ever-more-impressive Sviatoslav Shevchuk, Major-Archbishop of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, largest of the Eastern Catholic Churches that are Byzantine in liturgy and polity but in full communion with Rome.

Major-Archbishop Shevchuk was appropriately concerned about Moscow’s immediate response to an independent Ukrainian Orthodoxy, for Russian Orthodoxy “thinks in geopolitical categories” and speaks “the language of threats, blackmail, and … ultimatums.” That is simply realism, given the vitriol that has recently poured out of the Patriarchate of Moscow, which has broken communion with Constantinople, refuses to pray for Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew in its liturgy, and blames the move toward Ukrainian autocephaly on the White House, the Vatican, the Greek Catholics of Ukraine, and other bogeymen. I do wonder, though, whether the major-archbishop might not agree that, in the long view, Ukrainian autocephaly will be good for Russian Orthodoxy.

Why? Because it could help liberate that Church from its historic role of chaplain to the czar-of-the-day. Because such a liberation might encourage a recovery of the vast spiritual riches of Russian Orthodox piety and theology, now being suffocated by political games and power plays. And because it might, over time, accelerate what we should all be praying and working for: the genuine reconversion of Russia, which could be a spiritual powerhouse but won’t be, so long as the Gospel is mortgaged to state power.


5. As caravan moves north, Catholics insist seeking asylum not a crime.

By Christopher White, Crux, October 31, 2018

As President Donald Trump prepares to send 5,200 troops to Mexican border to block some 4,000 Central American asylum-seekers, Catholic leaders are urging governments to address the underlying causes of migration while reminding people that seeking asylum is not a crime.

A joint statement on Monday from the heads of the major Catholic migration and relief agencies in the United States urged compassion and a commitment to seeking “humane solutions that honor the rule of law and respect the dignity of human life.”

Border Bishop Robert McElroy of San Diego concurred, telling Crux “it is impossible to separate the sending of this large contingent of troops to the border, at this supremely political movement, from the torrent of hatred that has been cast upon those who are merely seeking the same dream that led the great majority of our ancestors to these shores.”

“We have the responsibility to control our borders, but in exercising that responsibility we must continually witness to the humanity of those desperately seeking freedom and safety through the caravan,” he warned, “or else we risk losing our own humanity.”


6. Spain and the Vatican at Odds on Possible Reburial of Franco.

By The Associated Press, October 30, 2018

The Spanish government announced Tuesday it will use legal means to prevent the remains of Gen. Francisco Franco from being reburied under Madrid’s cathedral, a move that could undermine efforts to rid the country of the late dictator’s long shadow.

But in a sign of how sensitive the issue has become, the Spanish government and the Vatican issued conflicting statements on what’s the best way to proceed after exhuming Franco’s embalmed body from a self-aggrandizing mausoleum outside of the Spanish capital.

Franco was interred upon his death in 1975 in a prominent space at the Valley of the Fallen, where the remains of some 34,000 fighters from both sides of the Spanish Civil War lie. Spain’s center-left government decided earlier this year to exhume Franco’s remains, but it has struggled to find an appropriate new burial place.

On Tuesday, Spain’s Deputy Prime Minister Carmen Calvo said the Holy See’s State Secretary, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, had agreed to prevent such an outcome during their Monday meeting in the Vatican. Calvo told reporters they had agreed to “jointly find a solution that obviously can’t be the Almudena” cathedral, which belongs to the Madrid Archdiocese.

But the Holy See’s press office later released a statement clarifying that while not opposing the exhumation of Franco, the cardinal had left it up for the Spanish government and Franco’s heirs to agree to a reburial place.


7. Jesus’ Response to the Scandals?

By Father Roger J. Landry, National Catholic Register, October 30, 2018

Fr. Roger J. Landry is a priest of the Diocese of Fall River, Massachusetts and the National Chaplain of Catholic Voices USA.

This second wave of the revelation of the sexual-abuse scandals in the Church has been sickening and disheartening for so many as we confront the suffering of countless victims, the wickedness of predators, the lack of spiritual paternity and pastoral determination on the part of those with the responsibility to root it out, and the corruption and tepidity that not only tolerate such filth and infidelity but sometimes augment it.

Those who know Church history are aware that throughout the centuries there have been periods of infidelity and iniquity in which spiritual cancer spread throughout the members of Christ’s Mystical Body, the clergy, religious orders, the laity — even the papacy. They also know that in response to such pervasive degeneracy, God was not indifferent and inert.

I think the answer to that question may have been sketched out through credible private revelations given to an anonymous Benedictine priest from Oct. 3, 2007, through June 2, 2016, found in the book recently published by Angelico Press entitled, In Sinu Iesu: When Heart Speaks to Heart — The Journal of a Priest at Prayer.

The words In Sinu Iesu come from the Latin Vulgate of how St. John reclined during the Last Supper, “on Jesus’ breast” (John 13:23). This priest’s journal, in which he humbly and plausibly claims to have regularly heard Jesus and Mary speaking to him, reminds us that Jesus desires to have an intimate heart-to-heart relationship with all of his beloved disciples, but especially with his priests.

Throughout its 308 pages, Jesus and Mary — and also on rarer occasions God the Father and a few saints — cover many fundamental aspects of the Christian spiritual life in such a profound, direct and moving way that it’s the most compelling text of spiritual reading besides sacred Scripture that I’ve read in years.