1. Trump administration to narrow Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate.

By William Wan and Juliet Eilperin, The Washington Post, October 6, 2017, Pg. A6

The Trump administration will issue a rule on Friday to sharply limit the Affordable Care Act’s contraception coverage mandate

The rule change, first reported by the New York Times, will be among the recent moves by President Trump to dismantle initiatives enacted under the Obama administration. It will fulfill a crucial promise Trump made as a candidate to appeal to social conservatives and in May when he signed an executive order in the Rose Garden to expand religious liberty.


2. Democrats flirt with religious test before judicial pick clears.

By Alex Swoyer, The Washington Times, October 6, 2017, Pg. A4

The Senate Judiciary Committee cleared one of President Trump’s high-profile judicial picks Thursday on a party-line vote, but not before Republicans warned Democrats they were treading close to imposing an unconstitutional religious test by opposing the nominee.

Democrats had peppered University of Notre Dame law professor Amy Barrett with questions about her Catholic faith and religious affiliations during her confirmation hearing last month, asking whether she was an “orthodox Catholic.”

The questioning about Ms. Barrett’s faith sparked the conservative Judicial Crisis Network to launch an ad targeting the top Democrat on the committee, Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, accusing her of “anti-Catholic bigotry.”
And on Thursday, The Catholic Association said Ms. Barrett’s qualifications are unquestionable.

“The only question is whether the senators that opposed her because she takes her faith seriously can overcome their anti-Catholic bias against her. We look now to the Senate to swiftly confirm her,” said Ashley McGuire, a senior fellow at The Catholic Association.

The committee also split along party lines in approving Michigan Supreme Court Justice Joan Larsen to serve on the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.


3. Pope Tells Web Companies-Use Profits to Protect Children.

By Reuters, October 6, 2017, 9:00 AM

Pope Francis told executives of leading internet companies on Friday to use “their great profits” to defend children from sexual exploitation and other dangers lurking online.

The pontiff, speaking at a conference in Rome, said the Catholic Church needed to accept responsibility “before God, victims and public opinion” for its own sex abuse scandals, but wanted to share the lessons it had learned.

Speaking to participants including representatives from Facebook and Microsoft, he said social media businesses had to do more than set up filters and algorithms to block harmful content.

The conference, held at a pontifical university in Rome, brought together experts from digital companies, law enforcement, medicine and academia to discuss online bullying, pornography and the preying on children by paedophiles.


4. Pope denounces porn and corruption of kids’ minds, bodies.

By Nicole Winfield, Associated Press, October 6, 2017, 7:55 AM

Pope Francis on Friday denounced the proliferation of adult and child pornography on the internet and demanded better protections for children online — even as the Vatican confronts its own cross-border child porn investigation involving a top papal envoy.

Francis met with participants of a Catholic Church-backed international conference on fighting child pornography and protecting children in the digital age. He fully backed their proposals to toughen sanctions against those who abuse and exploit children online and improve technological filters to prevent young people from accessing porn online.

Participants at the congress offered sobering statistics about the problem: Last year, Interpol identified five child victims of online abuse every day, while the Internet Watch Foundation identified more than 57,000 websites containing child sexual abuse images.


5. Pell to make case for abuse charges as ‘impossible’ at March hearing.

By Crux, October 6, 2017

Cardinal George Pell made his second appearance before an Australian court on Friday, with his defense team saying it wants to call some 50 witnesses in an effort to demonstrate that claims the 76-year-old prelate committed “historical sexual offenses” are impossible.

A four-week hearing has been scheduled beginning on March 5 of the next year to hear the evidence and determine whether the case should proceed to trial.

Legal observers in Australia say they assume Pell will have to stand trial, since roughly 95 percent of cases at the Magistrate’s Court level proceed to trial. Moreover, in a politically sensitive and high-profile case such as this, cases are rarely terminated at the preliminary stage.

Also at the March hearing, magistrates will decide which, if any, of the charges will proceed to trial, whether they will be tried together or separately.

Pell’s lawyer, Robert Richter, told the court on Friday that, “We say what was alleged is impossible,” insisting that evidence produced by the prosecutors is insufficient to demonstrate that Pell ever could have committed the offenses, let alone that he actually did.


6. Francis to honor WWII dead at US cemetery, site of massacre.

By Associated Press, October 6, 2017, 8:47 AM

Pope Francis will pay homage to victims of war when he visits two important World War II sites south of Rome next month: the American military cemetery at Nettuno and the Ardeatine Caves, site of one of the worst massacres in German-occupied Italy.

The Vatican on Friday announced that Francis would celebrate Mass at the Nettuno cemetery for all war dead on Nov. 2, which the Catholic Church marks as All Soul’s Day to honor the dead.

Later in the day, Francis will travel to the Ardeatine Caves on Rome’s outskirts. There, in 1944, 335 people were shot to death as a reprisal for an attack by partisans that killed 33 Nazi soldiers on a street in Rome.


7. Pope denounces technologies that help people change gender.

By Nicole Winfield, Associated Press, October 5, 2017, 11:33 AM

Pope Francis denounced Thursday how new technologies are making it easier for people to change their genders, saying this “utopia of the neutral” jeopardizes the creation of new life.

Francis made the comments to the Pontifical Academy for Life, the Vatican’s bioethics advisory board, taking up his criticism of so-called gender theory and the idea that people can choose their sex.

The academy under the previous two popes represented the leading, hard-line voice of the Catholic Church on sexual ethics, morality and culture war issues such as abortion and euthanasia. Francis has revamped it to broaden its scope to better reflect his holistic view of human life in concert with creation.

But Francis kept to the church’s hard line against gender theory in his first meeting with the new members Thursday, lashing out at how today’s exaltation of individual choice extends to one’s gender thanks to technological advances.


8. Pope defends male/female differences, as well as women’s equality.

By Inés San Martín, Crux, October 5, 2017

In one of his strongest defenses of traditional Catholic teaching on relations between the sexes to date, Pope Francis on Thursday insisted that modern assaults on the notion of intrinsic biological differences between men and women threaten both human dignity and the development of persons and societies.

However, in typical Francis fashion, the pontiff combined his endorsement of tradition with what is often considered a more progressive cause, insisting that among the threats to life looming in the 21st century is a continuing inability to acknowledge and promote the full equality of women.

The pope’s remarks came as he was addressing the general assembly of the Pontifical Academy for Life, his first such speech since he appointed Italian Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia to head the body. The theme of the meeting is “Accompany life: New responsibilities in the technological era,” which Francis described as challenging yet necessary.

From the beginning of his papacy, Francis has often criticized so-called “gender theory” which treats the differences between the sexes as elective and socially constructed rather than biologically determined. While that has been a recurrent theme, the pope’s rhetoric on Thursday was especially sharp.

According to the pontiff, the “recently introduced hypothesis” of promoting dignity of the human person by radically neutralizing the sexual differences between men and women is “not fair.”


9. Of Filial Corrections and Divisive Rhetoric: ‘Momentarily winning the day’ has characterized Catholic infighting in 2017.

By Father Raymond J. de Souza, Father Raymond J. de Souza is the editor in chief of Convivium magazine, National Catholic Register, October 5, 2017

The “filial correction” accusing Pope Francis of “propagating heresy” published last month by a number of Catholic scholars and priests is both a great surprise and the new normal.

It’s a great surprise because most of the names on the list would have never imagined they would ever be so bold as to publicly “correct” the Pope — something that, by their own reckoning, has not been done since the 14th century. But perhaps it’s also a new normal, because 2017 has been a year in which the Catholic world has witnessed a ratcheting up of the rhetoric, a reality that, if not mitigated, will fray communion in the Church. It began early in the year and reached a crescendo this autumn. If it does not abate, enduring damage may well be done.

All of this is highly regrettable, an environment in which the rhetoric in the Church is increasingly reckless, deliberately rude and seemingly designed to foster rancor rather than any reconciliation. The exchanges are such that both protagonists and commentators alike — including this writer — are tempted to resort to language that inflames rather than illumines.

In reference to the controversies about Father Martin, but making a wider point, Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput wrote the following:

First, all of us who claim to be Christians, wherever we locate ourselves on the ecclesial spectrum, have the duty to speak the truth with love. Culture warriors come in all shapes and shades of opinion. The bitterness directed at the person of Fr. Martin is not just unwarranted and unjust; it’s a destructive counter-witness to the Gospel. But it’s also hardly new. It has a perfect mirror-image in the poisonous sarcasm, contempt, and systematic cultivation of skepticism and dissent that has marked some self-described “progressive” Catholic scholars, authors, columnists and publications for decades. …

Two senior cardinals — Pietro Parolin, chosen by the Holy Father to be secretary of state, and Gerhard Müller, recently dismissed by Francis from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith — have both called for respectful dialogue about Amoris Laetitia.

Will their call be heeded? If it isn’t, more of the same will mean a fractious Church turned ever more inward, engaged in recriminations rather than mission.