1. A Judicial Abortion Test.

The Wall Street Journal, October 7, 2019, Pg. A18, Review & Outlook

One tragedy of Roe v. Wade is that it has turned any state regulation of abortion into a judicial controversy. And even the mildest regulation gets presented as something that threatens all access to abortion. The Supreme Court agreed to enter this thicket again on Friday by accepting Gee v. June Medical Services.

Abortion providers are challenging a Louisiana law that requires doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital.

The Louisiana law does not directly challenge the constitutional right to abortion that Roe declared. But the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the state regulation, which abortion-rights supporters fear could chip away at Roe by opening the door to increasing state restrictions and regulations.

The decision is politically fraught as it will likely be handed down next year in the heat of a presidential campaign. But Gee is an ideal case for the Court to hear if the new Justices see the constitutional space to widen, step by incremental judicial step, the ability of the political branches to legislate the practice of abortion.


2. Pope Opens Debate On Celibacy Rules For Catholic Priests.

By Francis X. Rocca, The Wall Street Journal, October 7, 2019, Pg. A10

Pope Francis formally opened a meeting of bishops that will debate whether the Catholic Church should loosen its 1,000-year-old requirement of celibacy for priests.

The potentially momentous debate pits those who say ordaining married men could relieve the church’s clergy shortage against those who warn that doing so would undermine the distinctive character of the priesthood.

This month’s Vatican meeting, called a synod, is dedicated to “new paths for the church” in South America’s Amazon region. Organizers have stressed the ecological topics on the agenda, including deforestation and other threats to indigenous communities.

The ratio of Catholics to priests in South America is 7,200 to one, almost four times the ratio in North America, according to Vatican statistics for 2017. In parts of the Amazon, the ratio is more than 8,000 to one. The worldwide ratio has risen sharply in recent decades, to about 3,200 to 1 from 1,900 to 1 in 1980.


3. Abortion Trumps Self-Rule in N. Ireland.

By Niamh Ui Bhriain, The Wall Street Journal, October 7, 2019, Pg. A19, Opinion

The last day of October is marked as a “do or die” Brexit day by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Oct. 22, marks another political deadline regarding self-determination in the United Kingdom. That’s when Parliament seeks to impose a permissive abortion law on Northern Ireland—against the will of the majority of people who live there.

Northern Ireland is part of the U.K. but for decades had the right to decide its own laws on abortion. Since the Good Friday Agreement came into force in 1999, a devolved parliament, the Assembly in Stormont, has had the power to legislate for the province. The Assembly voted down proposals to legalize abortion as recently as February 2016. But a political disagreement between the region’s biggest parties has left Stormont in limbo since January 2017.

 Activists seized on the political paralysis to lobby the British government to legalize abortion in the north. In July the British Parliament voted overwhelmingly to wipe out the north’s long tradition of protecting unborn children and give the region some of the most liberal abortion laws in Europe. In doing so, Westminster demolished the decadeslong understanding that the British government couldn’t simply impose laws pertaining to important and sensitive social issues on a fractious and fragile Northern Ireland.

 Perhaps Mr. Johnson is busy worrying about other things, but while he and his ruling Conservative Party supposedly champion self-determination in pursuit of Brexit, the U.K. is set to foist an unwanted, undemocratic abortion regime on Northern Ireland. So much for respecting the will of the people.

Ms. Ui Bhriain is director of the Life Institute in Dublin.


4. Abortion questions await justices as session begins, Pro-lifers file cases to try to weaken Roe.

By Alex Swoyer, The Washington Times, October 7, 2019, Pg. A1

The Supreme Court will wade into a stack of abortion cases during its session that opens Monday, giving the conservative- leaning bench a chance to chip away at Roe v. Wade, the landmark ruling legalizing abortion nationwide.

The justices announced Friday that they will consider a challenge to a Louisiana law that adds restrictions on abortion providers. They also are facing scores of cases brought by pro-life groups eager to get a case in front of a high court that has tilted right with Trump appointees.

As more conservative states enact laws banning abortion after fetal heartbeats have been detected and implement prohibitions on surgical abortion procedures, the court is under increased pressure to consider the hot-button question of when life begins.

The case granted review Friday wasn’t a shock to legal scholars, who expected the court to take a look at a Louisiana law requiring doctors performing abortions to have admitting privileges at a hospital no farther than 30 miles from the women’s clinic.

The high court, in a 5-4 move, halted the law from taking effect this year. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. sided with the four Democrat-appointed justices on the court in that move.

Abortion providers have challenged the legislation, saying it resembles a Texas law that the high court struck down in a 5-4 ruling three years ago. That time, it was Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, who has since retired, siding with the more liberal wing.


5. Book Review: A place where ‘moderns’ can be saved.

By Andrea Picciotti-Bayer, The Washington Times, October 7, 2019, Pg. B2
Andrea Picciotti-Bayer is legal adviser for The Catholic Association Foundation.

I put myself in “the box” — the confessional — on a weekly basis. I am completely convinced of the saving grace found in the Eucharist, and I want my family and friends — all those  close to me — as well as the people I meet and those I have yet to meet to know the beauty of the Catholic Church and embrace the truths she teaches. This has become much harder over the last year.

The clergy abuse crisis, not to mention lingering questions about the role current church leaders played in enabling predator priests, remains the “elephant in the room.” How on Earth would anyone want to be part of something so impressively dysfunctional?

It’s a good thing, then, that God plays a long game. It’s known as “salvation history.” All people should be well-versed in it. George Weigel’s latest book, “The Irony of Modern Catholic History: How the Church Rediscovered Itself & Challenged the Modern World to Reform,” should help. At this particularly wrought moment, his important new work taught me an important history lesson that is helping me continue my own apostolic mission.

Mr. Weigel, one of America’s leading Catholic intellectuals and best known for his biography of Pope St. John Paul II, describes his latest book as a “revisionist historiography.” He rejects the received wisdom that “modernity was always the drama’s protagonist and the Church was always the reactive (even reactionary) force” and refocuses readers.

Has it lost all moral authority because of the recent scandals? Mr. Weigel argues that these challenges can’t be addressed, and the scandals can’t be redressed, by returning to the age of the papal states nor by abandoning all established teaching.

So what is the solution? For Mr. Weigel, it is simply this: “Ongoing purification and deep Catholic reform.” More specifically, his path forward for Catholicism is “the path of missionary discipleship and public witness to the truths that make it possible to live freedom nobly.”

St. Teresa of Avila had it right when she said that “God writes straight with crooked lines.” George Weigel’s “The Irony of Modern Catholic History” traces those crooked lines in modern church history and left me more convinced than ever that, wounded as the Catholic Church may be today, it’s still a place — a home, really — where we “moderns” can be saved.


6. Chief justice must navigate a highly divisive docket as 2020 campaign rages.

By Robert Barnes, The Washington Post, October 7, 2019, Pg. A2

Resolution of the most contentious cases could happen in June, in the heat of a presidential campaign in which the future of the court has emerged as a galvanizing issue for conservatives and liberals.

On the court’s agenda:

An abortion case that gives the court’s new conservatives an opportunity to begin reconstructing its jurisprudence on what is perhaps the nation’s most divisive subject.

On the horizon, there are cases that could redefine when the government must give greater deference to a person’s religious beliefs and perhaps even a third trip to the high court for the Affordable Care Act.


7. A chance to improve abortion rights.

The Washington Post, October 6, 2019, Pg. A22, Opinion

To have an abortion in Virginia, a woman by law must undergo an ultrasound and listen to state-mandated information designed to shame her. She must then wait 24 hours before having the abortion.

The Virginia laws, subject of a challenge by abortion providers, fall under the category of targeted regulation of abortion providers (TRAP) laws.

A critical test for TRAP laws is in the offing with the Supreme Court’s announcement Friday that it will hear a case concerning a Louisiana law that requires abortion providers to have admitting privileges at a local hospital.

Plaintiffs in the Virginia case are deciding whether to appeal Judge Hudson’s decision. Depending on the outcome of next month’s elections, they may have a better avenue for relief than the courts. All 140 seats of the General Assembly are on the Nov. 5 ballot, and if the Republicans lose their slim control, the prospects for abortion rights are sure to improve.


8. Pope opens synod urging bishops ‘not to kick the Holy Spirit out of the hall’

By John L. Allen Jr., Editor, Crux, October 7, 2019

Pope Francis launched his high-stakes summit on the Amazon into orbit Monday, opening things up by blasting ideologies that disrespect native and indigenous cultures and urging bishops and other participants not to “kick the Holy Spirit out of the hall” as the Oct. 6-27 event unfolds.

“Ideology is a dangerous weapon,” the pope said, opening the first working session of the Synod of Bishops on the Amazon.

“It’s reductive and leads us to exaggerate our pretense to intellectually understand [a culture] without admiring it or taking it up ourselves,” Francis said. Such “slogans,” the pontiff said, “serve to divide, annihilate and destroy,” saying their toxic consequences can be seen in the “extermination of the majority of indigenous persons” in the Amazon.

The pontiff also spent some time laying out his vision for a Synod of Bishops, saying it’s “not about who has more power to impose their own plans and ideas.”


9. Chair of pope’s Amazon summit puts married priests, women squarely on the table.

By John L. Allen Jr., Editor, Crux, October 7, 2019

Not wasting any time, the chairman of Pope Francis’s Synod of Bishops on the Amazon kicked things off Monday morning by putting the hotly contested issues of married priests and the role of woman squarely on the assembly’s table.

“Another issue consists in the lack of priests at the service of local communities in the area, with a consequent lack of the Eucharist, at least on Sundays, as well as other sacraments,” said Brazilian Cardinal Claudio Hummes, appointed by Francis to serve as the relator, or chair, of the Oct. 6-27 gathering.

“This means pastoral care made up of sporadic visits instead of adequate daily pastoral care,” Hummes said.

While Americans and Europeans often complain of priest shortages, church statistics suggest there’s one priest for every 1,300 baptized Catholics in both regions. In Latin America overall that ratio is 1 priest to 7,800 Catholics, and in some parts of the Amazon it can soar to 1-15,000 and higher.

In the run-up to the Synod on the Amazon, the question of married priests – the so-called viri probati – has been among its most debated points. Critics see such proposals as a Trojan horse that could lead to the abolition of clerical celibacy everywhere, while advocates tend to style it was a realistic response to the pastoral exigencies of the region.


10. Letters From the Synod-2019: #1.

Edited by Xavier Rynne II, First Things, October 7, 2019

Eighty years ago, on October 1, 1939, a month after the German invasion of Poland launched World War II in Europe, Winston Churchill, then the First Lord of the Admiralty, made a radio broadcast on the Chamberlain government’s war strategy, during which he famously described Russia (which had also invaded Poland on September 17, 1939) as “a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.”

The same might be said about the synodal Special Assembly on Amazonia, which was formally opened by Pope Francis on Sunday, October 6, at a Mass in St. Peter’s in the Vatican.

As its double-barreled title—“New Paths for the Church and for an Integral Ecology—suggests, Synod-2019 has, on the surface, a dual focus: the pastoral life of the Church in a vast region of Latin America, and the environmental issues raised by development efforts in “Amazonia.” The tacit concession implied by the synod’s title is that evangelization in Amazonia has been something of a failure, despite the fact that the Church has been active in Latin America for over a half-century (and despite the Latin American Church’s recommitment to a grand strategy of vigorous evangelization at the Aparecida Conference of Latin American bishops in 2007, in which a leading role was played by Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, SJ, of Buenos Aires—who is now, of course, Pope Francis). The tacit proposal inside the synod’s title is that a robust Catholic response to Amazonia’s ecological challenges is something of a prerequisite for the evangelization of the area. Whether the next three weeks of synod “interventions” (addresses to the entire synod membership, which includes 184 bishops and some 70 advisers and consultants) and small-group discussions succeeds in bringing the Amazonian Synod’s two focal points into alignment remains to be seen–as it remains to be seen precisely how these October deliberations and the synod’s final report shape the post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation that Pope Francis will issue; recent experience suggests that the connection between synod and post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation can be tenuous.

But as the sharp debate preceding Synod-2019 ought to have made clear, much more will be going on in Rome over the next three weeks than debates about evangelization, environmentalism, and their possible connection.

Whatever its declared purpose, the Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for the Pan-Amazon Region is going to expose, in what one expects will be a heightened way, theological and indeed doctrinal tensions within Catholicism that have roiled the Church for the past half-century—many of which were once thought resolved, but which have been resuscitated over the past six and a half years. In this sense, the Amazonian Synod will be yet another battle in the war over the proper interpretation of the Second Vatican Council and its call to engage the modern world in order to convert it to the truth of God in Christ, which is also the truth about our humanity and its destiny. Given the way in which the correlation of forces in Synod-2019 has been arranged by Synod General Secretary Baldisseri to his satisfaction, there may be little doubt as to how the battle will unfold over the next three weeks. But that by no means will suggest that the larger struggle over Vatican II’s legacy has been resolved; it will, however, sharpen the world Church’s understanding of what is involved in that struggle, which is nothing less than the integrity of Catholic faith and the Church’s obedience to its Lord’s command to teach all that he commanded.


11. Vatican summit on the Amazon stirs backlash, Conservatives push back on proposal to allow married priests in region.

By Stefano Pitrelli, The Washington Post, October 6, 2019, Pg. A22

A three-week meeting on the Amazon region begins Sunday at the Vatican, but even before the first debate, the gathering is turning into one of the more contentious moments in Pope Francis’s papacy.

The pressures of climate change and Amazon development — highlighted by recent fires ravaging the rainforest — add an urgency to the Vatican talks that cover the church’s struggles and efforts to safeguard one of the world’s most critical ecosystems.

But the outreach efforts to all corners of the Catholic world — a trademark of Francis’s tenure — have drawn criticism.

Some conservatives say the church is straying from its roots, acting more as a nongovernmental organization than a religion. Others have zeroed in on a proposal mentioned in the event’s working document: ordaining older married men to ease the severe shortage of priests in the Amazon basin.

This is the fourth time that Francis has convened the gathering of bishops, known as a synod. Such a meeting cannot set church policies or change doctrine on its own, but it offers guidance and recommendations to the pope and serves as a barometer for views around the Catholic world and within the church.


12. Opening Amazon synod, Pope Francis says aim is to fight fire with fire.

By John L. Allen Jr., Editor, Crux, October 6, 2019

In the run-up to an Oct. 6-27 Synod of Bishops for the Amazon that opened today in the Vatican, the world watched with horror as almost 80,000 wildcat fires consumed 3,500 square miles of a rainforest that’s home to at least 10 percent of the world’s known biodiversity and put the lives and livelihoods of millions of indigenous inhabitants at risk.

In response to such fires that destroy, Francis on Sunday called the roughly 300 bishops and other participants in the synod to kindle a different kind of fire, one that saves – a fire of “daring prudence,” the pope called it, fed by the Holy Spirit.

“Jesus did not come to bring a gentle evening breeze, but to light a fire on the earth,” he reminded synod participants Sunday during a Mass to open the month-long event.

Literally, the pope’s synod plan appears to be fighting fire with fire.

“The fire set by interests that destroy, like the fire that recently devastated Amazonia, is not the fire of the Gospel,” he said.

“The fire of God is warmth that attracts and gathers into unity,” Francis said. “It is fed by sharing, not by profits. The fire that destroys, on the other hand, blazes up when people want to promote only their own ideas, form their own group, wipe out differences in the attempt to make everyone and everything uniform.”


13. Court to Review Louisiana Abortion Law, Case will test recent precedent after court struck down a similar law in Texas in 2016.

By Brent Kendall, The Wall Street Journal, October 5, 2019, Pg. A3

The Supreme Court agreed to review Louisiana abortion restrictions that require doctors to hold hospital admitting privileges near where the procedure is provided, a case that will test recent abortion precedent and reveal the thinking of the court’s newest members on the inflammatory issue.

The justices added the case to their docket Friday ahead of the start of their new term next week.

The Louisiana law, enacted in 2014, says physicians performing abortions must hold admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles.


14. For justices, abortion case signals a pivotal moment.

By Robert Barnes, The Washington Post, October 5, 2019, Pg. A1

The Supreme Court said Friday that it will review a restrictive Louisiana abortion law, providing the first opportunity for a conservative majority reinforced by President Trump’s two appointees to begin reconsidering the court’s abortion rights landscape.

In the coming months, the court will examine whether the state’s 2014 law requiring doctors at abortion clinics to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals unduly burdens women’s access to abortion. Practitioners have said the law would force most of Louisiana’s abortion clinics to close, leaving only one doctor eligible to perform the procedure.

It is almost identical to a Texas law struck down by the Supreme Court in 2016. Now-retired justice Anthony M. Kennedy joined the court’s four liberals to form a majority in what was its most important endorsement of abortion rights in 25 years.

Trump’s choices for the court, Justices Neil M. Gorsuch and Brett M. Kavanaugh, who replaced the late Antonin Scalia and Kennedy, respectively, were enthusiastically supported by antiabortion groups.


15. Pope Francis Is Fearless.

By John Gehring, The New York Times, October 5, 2019, Pg. A23, Opinion
Mr. Gehring is the author of “The Francis Effect: A Radical Pope’s Challenge to the American Catholic Church.”

The Rev. James Martin, one of America’s most prominent Catholic priests, is a best-selling author, film consultant to Hollywood producers and a prolific tweeter with a digital pulpit that reaches more than 250,000 followers. Father Martin is also a hero to many L.G.B.T. Catholics for challenging church leaders to recognize the full humanity of gay people.

Pope Francis met with the priest, a Jesuit like the pope, during a private, half-hour conversation in the pope’s library, a place often reserved for discussions with heads of state and diplomats.

Pope Francis has made it clear that he is not afraid of the small but increasingly vocal chorus of American critics who consider his pastoral efforts to reach out to L.G.B.T. people and divorced Catholics as near heretical breaks from church tradition.

Since his election six years ago, Pope Francis has modeled a different brand of moral leadership: engaging and persuading, reframing contentious issues away from narrow ideologies and expanding moral imaginations.


16. Trump Supreme Court Appointees to Hear Their First Abortion Case.

By Adam Liptak, The New York Times, October 5, 2019, Pg. A11

The Supreme Court agreed on Friday to hear a challenge to a Louisiana law that its opponents say would leave the state with only one doctor in a single clinic authorized to provide abortions.

The case is very likely to yield an unusually telling decision, reshaping the constitutional principles governing abortion rights, because in 2016, the court struck down an essentially identical Texas law.


17. Pope makes 13 cardinals as he molds a future in his likeness.

By Nicole Winfield, The Associated Press, October 5, 2019, 7:52 AM

Pope Francis has chosen 13 men he admires and whose pastoral concerns align with his to become the Catholic Church’s newest cardinals. A formal ceremony elevating the prelates to the elite position in church hierarchy takes place Saturday.

They include 10 cardinals who are under age 80 and therefore eligible to vote in a conclave, increasing the likelihood that a future pope might end up looking an awful lot like the current one.

With Saturday’s consistory, Francis will have named 52% of the voting-age members of the College of Cardinals. Many of the pastors receiving red hats are from far-flung dioceses in the developing world that never have had a “prince” of the Catholic Church representing them.


18. Married priests, saviors of the faith or part of an agenda?

By Manuel Rueda, The Associated Press, October 4, 2019, 10:07 AM

More than 100 bishops from South America will convene at the Synod of Bishops for the Pan-Amazon Region. The meeting will discuss social and environmental problems faced by the inhabitants of the Amazon, including the increasing rate of deforestation in the region. But bishops are also looking at ways to introduce changes to official ministries to better serve Catholics in this part of the world.

One item on the synod’s agenda is a proposal to study the possibility of priestly ordination for older men who have good standing in their communities and are preferably of indigenous origin, “even if they have an established and stable family.”

While the synod proposal would be novel for the Latin Rite church, there are already married priests in Eastern Rite Catholic churches and in cases where married Anglican priests have converted.

Nevertheless, the proposal has set off a firestorm of criticism against Pope Francis, with opponents accusing synod organizers of heresy for even introducing debate on the centuries-old tradition of a celibate priesthood in the Latin Rite church.

Since 1970, the number of priests around the world has remained steady, hovering at 400,000 to 415,000, according to Catholic Church figures. But the world’s Catholic population has doubled to 1.3 billion, leading to shortages of priests in some parts of the globe.

In remote Amazonian communities that are only accessible by boat, villagers can go months without sacraments that only priests can celebrate, including communion and confessions.


19. Mexico is taking steps toward legalizing abortion. But across Latin America, restrictions remain widespread.

By Ruby Mellen, Washington Post Online, October 4, 2019, 6:00 AM

Activists took to the streets of Mexico City on Saturday to call on the Mexican federal government to decriminalize abortion, echoing campaigns in recent years throughout Latin America, which has some of the world’s harshest abortion laws.

The drives are seen in part as a rejection of the Catholic Church, which has lost influence worldwide in the wake of recent clerical sex-abuse scandals.


Abortion laws in Mexico are enacted at the state level. Abortion has been legal in Mexico City since 2007, but most states in the country allow the procedure only if the life of the woman is in danger. After the weekend demonstrations, the country’s ruling party announced Monday that it would present a bill in Congress to decriminalize abortion at the federal level.


Argentina’s abortion rights activists suffered a blow in 2018 when a bill to legalize abortion in the first 14 weeks of pregnancy failed to clear the Senate. The decision was the culmination of months of protests to lift restrictions. Argentine law allows abortion only in cases of rape or if the woman’s health is in danger.


20. Supreme Court to hear Louisiana abortion law appeal.

By Matt Hadro, Catholic News Agency, October 4, 2019, 09:30 AM

The Supreme Court will consider an abortion case this term after it announced on Friday that it will hear a challenge to Louisiana’s abortion law.

Louisiana’s Unsafe Abortion Protection Act requires abortionists to have admitting privileges at a local hospital, defined as within 30 miles of the abortion clinic; when then-Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) signed the bill into law in 2014, it was promptly challenged in court.

“Abortion activists are more than willing to lower the bar on women’s health in order to expand abortion, but stricter clinic regulations are in the best interest of women,” Jeanne Mancini, president of March for Life, stated on Friday.

Dr. Grazie Pozo Christie, a Policy Advisor for The Catholic Association, said the law did nothing more than provide common-sense protections for women’s health.

The law “ensures that women suffering from dangerous complications do not show up at emergency rooms where doctors who don’t know them can only guess at the surgical intervention that was done at the abortion facility,” she said.


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