1. How Catholics Can Welcome LGBT Believers: It’s possible to stay faithful to the church’s teachings without turning away millions.

By Cardinal Robert Sarah, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, The Wall Street Journal, September 1, 2017, Pg. A13

The Catholic Church has been criticized by many, including some of its own followers, for its pastoral response to the LGBT community. This criticism deserves a reply—not to defend the Church’s practices reflexively, but to determine whether we, as the Lord’s disciples, are reaching out effectively to a group in need. Christians must always strive to follow the new commandment Jesus gave at the Last Supper: “Love one another, even as I have loved you.”

Those who speak on behalf of the church must be faithful to the unchanging teachings of Christ, because only through living in harmony with God’s creative design do people find deep and lasting fulfillment.

Among Catholic priests, one of the most outspoken critics of the church’s message with regard to sexuality is Father James Martin, an American Jesuit. In his book “Building a Bridge,” published earlier this year, he repeats the common criticism that Catholics have been harshly critical of homosexuality while neglecting the importance of sexual integrity among all of its followers.

Father Martin is correct to argue that there should not be any double standard with regard to the virtue of chastity, which, challenging as it may be, is part of the good news of Jesus Christ for all Christians. For the unmarried—no matter their attractions—faithful chastity requires abstention from sex.

It is my prayer that the world will finally heed the voices of Christians who experience same-sex attractions and who have discovered peace and joy by living the truth of the Gospel.

These men and women testify to the power of grace, the nobility and resilience of the human heart, and the truth of the church’s teaching on homosexuality. In many cases, they have lived apart from the Gospel for a period but have been reconciled to Christ and his church. Their lives are not easy or without sacrifice. Their same-sex inclinations have not been vanquished. But they have discovered the beauty of chastity and of chaste friendships. Their example deserves respect and attention, because they have much to teach all of us about how to better welcome and accompany our brothers and sisters in authentic pastoral charity.


2. Pope, Orthodox leader blame ‘moral decay’ for ecology crisis.

By Nicole Winfield, Associated Press, September 1, 2017, 4:31 AM

Pope Francis and the spiritual leader of the world’s Orthodox Christians issued a joint appeal Friday for political leaders to “support the consensus of the world” that climate change and other environmental ills have created an ecological crisis that is harming the world’s poorest the most.

The message echoed that of Francis’ landmark 2015 encyclical “Laudato Sii” (Praise Be), where Latin America’s first pope called for a cultural revolution to correct a “structurally perverse” economic system in which the rich exploit the poor, turning Earth into an “immense pile of filth.”

In that document, Francis cited writings by Bartholomew, who championed the environmental cause long before Francis became pope.


3. Turmoil in Venezuela to vie for Pope’s attention in Colombia. 

By Joshua Goodman and Nicole Winfield, Associated Press, September 1, 2017, 12:16 AM

The plight of so many struggling people from the neighboring nation [Venezuela] is likely to steal at least some of Pope Francis’ attention when he arrives in Colombia on Wednesday.

While the trip is meant as a celebration of Colombia’s historic peace deal with leftist rebels, pressure is building on the first Latin American pontiff to speak out against the Venezuelan government for the worsening turmoil in that country during his six-day visit.

Venezuelan bishops are traveling to Colombia to meet with Francis during his visit, though it’s not clear what he will say publicly or privately.

Francis, who battled with Latin America’s conservative church hierarchy as archbishop of Buenos Aires, has long been seen as being close to some of the region’s leftist leaders. Meanwhile Maduro, who met with Francis at the Vatican when the dialogue effort kicked off, has long accused local bishops of siding with the opposition and ignoring the pope’s orders to build bridges.

A major turning point firmly aligning the Vatican and local prelates came during Holy Week in April, as protests were returning to Venezuela with a vengeance. A mob of government supporters stormed a church in downtown Caracas, roughing up worshippers and assaulting the capital’s archbishop, Cardinal Jorge Urosa, as he was delivering a sermon calling for the government to cease “the exaggerated repression” against anti-government protesters.

Alarmed by the rising levels of violence amid protests that claimed 120 lives, local bishops took the unusual step of traveling to Rome to personally brief Francis on how bad the situation had become. The June visit was all the more significant because the bishops themselves initiated it instead of being invited by the Vatican, as is usually the case.


4. Efforts to mend China-Vatican rift seem stalled over bishops.

By Christopher Bodeen and Nicole Winfield, Associated Press, August 31, 2017, 10:35 PM

The Vatican’s efforts to heal a decades-long rift with China appear to have stalled, with each side still unwilling to accept controversial bishops appointed by the other.

In recent months, Beijing has appeared to take a harder line toward believers, and has ordered the country’s estimated 12 million Catholics to shun foreign influence and to “Sinosize” their Church.

Meanwhile, the ruling Communist Party is again telling members that atheism remains a core value, not to be transgressed.

The developments mark a shift from just over a decade ago, when Pope Benedict XVI penned a landmark letter to the church in China that was seen as an impetus toward improving ties.

The famously pragmatic Pope Francis has shown a desire to improve relations through his reluctance to criticize Beijing for imprisoning bishops while emphasizing his great esteem for China’s people and civilization. In one recent case, the Vatican issued a statement over the imprisonment of the bishop in the eastern city of Wenzhou only after Germany’s ambassador did so first.

Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican secretary of state who is spearheading the Vatican’s efforts at a thaw, has said the Holy See has patience for what will inevitably be a long and difficult reconciliation process.

The Vatican’s apparent soft line and policy of appeasement has been met with criticism at home and abroad, with retired Hong Kong Cardinal Joseph Zen among the most vocal opponents, while his successor, Cardinal John Tong, has been a supporter.


5. Anti-abortion activist, attorneys fined $200K over videos. 

By Associated Press, August 31, 2017, 7:42 PM

A federal judge has fined an anti-abortion activist and two of his attorneys nearly $200,000 after videos that the judge had barred from release appeared on the attorneys’ website.

U.S. District Court Judge William Orrick said Thursday he hoped the sanction against David Daleiden and his attorneys, Steve Cooley and Brentford Ferreira, would ensure future compliance with his injunction.

Daleiden’s Center for Medical Progress has released secretly recorded videos it says show Planned Parenthood employees selling fetal tissue for profit. Planned Parenthood has denied the claim.

Orrick has blocked other secret recordings by the group, and held Daleiden and his attorneys in contempt after the videos surfaced.