1. ‘It Is Chilling to Hear . . . ’: Notre Dame’s president has some pointed words for Senate Democrats.

By The Wall Street Journal, September 11, 2017, Pg. A16, Review & Outlook

Our editorial last week on the spectacle of Senate Democrats questioning the Catholic faith of Notre Dame law professor and judicial nominee Amy Barrett struck a nerve. Many readers are stunned that politicians would suggest that having “orthodox” religious views could disqualify someone from the American judiciary.

Also concerned is John Jenkins, President of the University of Notre Dame. Fr. Jenkins is no conservative but he can spot an attack on religious belief, and on Saturday he wrote to Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee who led the assault on Ms. Barrett.

Considering your questioning of my colleague Amy Coney Barrett during the judicial confirmation hearing of September 6, I write to express my confidence in her competence and character, and deep concern at your line of questioning.

Your concern, as you expressed it, is that “dogma lives loudly in [Professor Barrett], and that is a concern when you come to big issues that large numbers of people have fought for years in this country.” I am one in whose heart “dogma lives loudly”, as it has for centuries in the lives of many Americans, some of whom have given their lives in service to this nation. Indeed, it lived loudly in the hearts of those who founded our nation as one where citizens could practice their faith freely and without apology.

Professor Barrett has made it clear that she would “follow unflinchingly” all legal precedent and, in rare cases in which her conscience would not allow her to do so, she would recuse herself. I can assure you that she is a person of integrity who acts in accord with the principles she articulates.

It is chilling to hear from a United States Senator that this might now disqualify someone from service as a federal judge. I ask you and your colleagues to respect those in whom “dogma lives loudly”—which is a condition we call faith. For the attempt to live such faith while one upholds the law should command respect, not evoke concern.


2. Pope Francis Opens Door to More Liberal Translations of Mass: Decentralizing decree is likely to spark new round in liturgy wars with conservatives.

By Francis X. Rocca, The Wall Street Journal, September 11, 2017, Pg. A18

Pope Francis gave national bishops’ conferences greater authority to translate the Mass into local languages, reviving a half-century-long effort to modernize the Catholic liturgy after decades of conservative retrenchment.

The pope’s decree, published Saturday, is the latest episode in the struggle over liturgy that has beset the Catholic Church over the last half-century, since the Second Vatican Council ushered in a host of changes including worship in modern languages instead of Latin.

Pope Francis is much more of a liberal on worship and other matters than his predecessor Pope Benedict XVI, who revived the traditional Latin Mass in 2007.

Pope Francis has little enthusiasm for the Latin Mass and has embraced an expansive understanding of the spirit of Vatican II with changes that go beyond the letter of council documents. In a speech last month, the pope invoked his teaching authority to state that the post-conciliar liturgical reform is “irreversible.”

While “Pope Francis takes the Mass and the sacraments seriously, he is not heavily invested in the fine points of liturgical debate,” said John L. Allen, Jr. , president of Crux Catholic Media and a papal biographer. Yet Saturday’sdecree “is the clearest statement that Pope Francis has made to date about his interpretation of Vatican II,” most significantly as an act of decentralization.

Saturday’s papal decree could in principle allow bishops in English-speaking countries to reverse the 2011 changes, pending final approval from the Vatican.

But Mr. Allen said such a move is unlikely in the U.S., where bishops have generally embraced the latest translation and may be loath to reopen the time-consuming and acrimonious process that produced it.


3. The Dogma of Dianne Feinstein.

By Sohrab Ahmari, senior writer at Commentary magazine, The New York Times, September 11, 2017

Witness last week’s Senate confirmation hearing for Amy Coney Barrett, a law professor at Notre Dame whom President Trump has nominated to serve on the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals. Going far beyond questions of legal philosophy and qualification, several Democratic lawmakers interrogated Ms. Barrett about her devout Catholicism, suggesting that her faith would impede her ability to serve as a judge.

“Do you consider yourself an ‘orthodox Catholic’?” asked Dick Durbin of Illinois, himself a Catholic, taking issue with Ms. Barrett’s use of that term to describe those who strive to align their lives fully with the Church’s teachings. Mazie Hirono of Hawaii darkly insinuated that Ms. Barrett would apply Catholic morality to decide cases.

But Dianne Feinstein of California took things furthest. “Dogma and law are two different things,” she said. “And I think whatever a religion is, it has its own dogma. The law is totally different. And I think in your case, professor, when you read your speeches, the conclusion one draws is that the dogma lives loudly within you, and that’s of concern.”

The episode was symptomatic of a repressive turn among Western liberals.

As a classical liberal and a recent convert to Catholicism, I find all of this deeply dismaying. Long before I started on my journey to Rome, I believed in the promise of the free society — a system in which liberty and tradition could contend without either one trying to destroy the other. One could be fully a believer and fully invested in a liberal constitutional order. But for some progressives, it isn’t enough to have won most of the cultural and policy battles of the past several decades. Even the remnants of the other side, in people’s minds and consciences, must submit to maximalist progressive claims.

It won’t happen, and the desire to do so isn’t actually liberal. It is, well, dogmatic. Not all dogmas involve Almighty God.


4. Where Trump’s Hands-Off Approach to Governing Does Not Apply. 

By Ben Protess, Danielle Ivory, and Steve Eder, The New York Times, September 11, 2017, Pg. A1

The Trump administration opened the door to allowing more firearms on federal lands. It scrubbed references to “L.G.B.T.Q. youth” from the description of a federal program for victims of sex trafficking. And, on the advice of religious leaders, it eliminated funding to international groups that provide abortion.

While these initiatives lacked the fanfare of some of President Trump’s high-profile proclamations — like his ban on transgender people in the military — they point to a fundamental repurposing of the federal bureaucracy to promote conservative social priorities.

The overhaul is unfolding behind the scenes in Washington at agencies like the Health and Human Services Department, where new rules about birth control are being drafted, and in federal courtrooms, where the Justice Department has shifted gears in more than a dozen Obama-era cases involving social issues.

For Mr. Trump, who only recently adopted socially conservative causes, an alliance with the religious right might seem an odd fit. And with his newfound deal-making with Democrats in Congress, it is unknown if his social priorities might change. But these conservative groups voted for him in large numbers, and as president, Mr. Trump has remained loyal: He appointed Neil Gorsuch, a favorite of social conservatives, to the Supreme Court, and he stocked his cabinet with others like Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Spending by the top anti-abortion lobbying groups increased as well. The Susan B. Anthony List spent $390,000 in the first half of this year and projected it would spend $400,000 in the second half, almost doubling the yearly total for 2016, which had been its biggest year.

In each of the cases identified by The Times, the Justice Department either reversed an earlier position, announced that the government was reconsidering an existing rule, or became newly involved in a legal fight, court records show.

In at least nine cases, the department stated in court papers that the Trump administration was considering changing an Affordable Care Act rule that requires companies to provide employees with free insurance coverage for birth control.


5. Pope Ends Colombia Visit With Plea for Those ‘Still Being Sold as Slaves’.

By Nicholas Casey, The New York Times, September 11, 2017, Pg. A6

Pope Francis concluded his trip to Colombia on Sunday by visiting the bones of a 17th-century Roman Catholic saint who devoted his life to helping slaves, and whose legacy the pontiff called an example to all for his defense of the poor.

It was the last day of events on Francis’ six-day visit to Colombia, meant as a gentle nudge to the country’s Catholics to forgive crimes committed during a half-century of conflict between the government and the country’s main rebel group, which signed a peace treaty late last year.

But mostly it was an opportunity for the pope to widen the message of his visit, and he made calls to recognize the poor and marginalized worldwide — his papacy’s most familiar theme.

“Here in Colombia and in the world, millions of people are still being sold as slaves,” Francis told a group gathered for prayers in the walled Old Town of Cartagena, a northern port town. “They either beg for some expressions of humanity, moments of tenderness, or they flee by sea or land because they have lost everything, primarily their dignity and their rights.”

On Sunday, he also briefly addressed the political crisis in neighboring Venezuela, calling for “the rejection of all violence in political life and for a solution to the current grave crisis, which affects everyone, particularly the poorest and most disadvantaged of society.”


6. Pope wraps Colombia trip standing with poorest of the poor.

By Inés San Martín, Crux, September 10, 2017

After delivering more than 10 speeches, visiting an orphanage, leading prayers of reconciliation in a country devastated by conflict, celebrating Masses before vast crowds, and meeting politicians, social elites, and bishops alike, Pope Francis closed his Sept. 6-11 visit to Colombia surrounded by those he loves the most: The poorest of the poor, including young women who are recovering victims of human trafficking.

Among other things, Francis told them that God teaches through the example of the humble and discarded. He also vigorously lamented that today, as in the 1500s, human beings are being traded as slaves.

“Here in Colombia, and in the world, millions of people are still being sold as slaves; they either beg for some expressions of humanity, moments of tenderness, or they flee by sea or land because they have lost everything, primarily their dignity and their rights,” he said.


7. How on Saturday, Pope Francis gave us his bottom line on Vatican II.

By John L. Allen Jr., Editor, Crux, September 10, 2017

While the pontiff was on the road, the Vatican released a new motu proprio from him, meaning a legal document issued under his personal authority, amending canon 838 of the Code of Canon Law.

Bypassing the legal fine points, in essence what the changes mean is that from here on out, more control of the process of translating texts for use in Catholic worship into vernacular languages around the world will be vested in local conferences of bishops as opposed to the Vatican, and, specifically, as opposed to the Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.

In particular, the edict limits the Vatican’s role at the end of the process, when a bishops’ conference submits a proposed translation for approval. No longer will the Congregation for Divine Worship submit an extensive list of required amendments to the text at that stage; instead, it will simply say “yes” or “no.”

Given that in most cases, Rome won’t want to delay an entire translation, many observers believe it’s now more likely that, whatever the bishops decide in the end, that will be what the Vatican accepts.

It’s well-known that Pope Francis, though he takes the Mass and the other sacraments of the Church highly seriously, isn’t terribly invested in the details of liturgical debates. He’s not Pope emeritus Benedict XVI, for whom the liturgy is a deep personal passion. As a result, one suspects Saturday’s move wasn’t primarily about substance. Instead it was about process, and what the pope’s gut tells him has gone wrong in the post-Vatican II period.

Over the last thirty years or so, there have been two dominant narratives about the fallout from Vatican II among Catholic insiders. One holds that implementation of the council went a little bit crazy in the 1960s, 70s and 80s, and what John Paul II and Benedict XVI did was to supply some necessary course corrections, steering the Church back towards what this group sees as the “true” spirit of Vatican II.

The other narrative posits that the decisions of Vatican II were too great a shock for the Vatican’s system to handle and that the old guard was biding its time, waiting for the moment to come when they could start rolling things back. That moment arrived, they say, under John Paul and Benedict, and, as a result, critical elements of Vatican II’s promise were either stalled or outright reversed.

Probably, if you asked Francis himself, he’d tell you that he doesn’t fully swallow either of those narratives. (We’ll see, by the way, if someone does ask him that later today, during the customary in-flight news conference on the way back to Rome from Colombia.)

Still, Francis spent most of his career as a local bishop in faraway Argentina (far from Rome, that is), and from time to time voiced frustration over what he saw as obtuse and opaque decision-making in the Vatican.

Bottom line, this move will be seen as a vindication for liberals who insisted during the liturgy wars that it was outrageous for decisions to be made thousands of miles away in Rome rather than by bishops who know the local situation, and as a setback for traditionalists who learned to see bishops’ conferences as the problem and the Vatican as the solution.

No matter where one stands in that dispute, Saturday brought the clearest example to date that the pendulum is now swinging hard in the opposite direction from the one in which it was heading under the previous two popes.


8. Pope Francis Shifts Power From Rome With ‘Hugely Important’ Liturgical Reform.

By Jason Horowitz, The New York Times, September 10, 2017, Pg. A12

Pope Francis, who has used his absolute authority in the Vatican to decentralize power from Rome, made a widespread change Saturday to the ways, and words, in which Roman Catholics worship by amending Vatican law to give national bishop conferences greater authority in translating liturgical language.

“It’s hugely important,” said Rita Ferrone, a specialist in Catholic liturgy who writes for Commonweal, a liberal Catholic magazine. She said that by loosening Rome’s grip on the language of prayers, Francis had restored the intention of the reforms of the Second Vatican Council and erased some of the rollbacks of his predecessor, Benedict XVI. “It was especially astute that he put it into canon law because it makes it official.”

On Saturday he stepped squarely onto the battlefield of the so-called Liturgy Wars, which, especially in the English-speaking church, have divided liberals and conservatives for decades.

With “Magnum Principium,” a papal Motu Proprio — or a document issued under the pope’s own legal authority – Francis altered a key 2001 instruction by Pope John Paul II that empowered Vatican officials in Rome to ensure local translations adhered to the standard Latin.

Catholic progressives have advocated a greater use of contemporary idioms consistent with the Second Vatican Council reforms of the 1960s and many bristled under what they considered a heavy and out-of-touch hand from Rome.

Conservative opponents favored the Latin Mass, or at least more faithful translations to it in the local language, and they wanted the church hierarchy in Rome to ensure global universality and unity by making all of those translations uniform.

By amending the Code of Canon Law, Francis appears to have sided with the liberals in the debate and shifted the ownership of translations to the local bishops.


9. Sporting a black eye, pope urges Colombians to reconcile.

By Nicole Winfield and Alba Tobella, Associated Press, September 10, 2017, 10:54 PM

Francis’ visit to Cartagena got off to a rocky start when he bonked his head on his popemobile when it stopped short amid swarms of well-wishers. Francis, who had only a hip-high bar to hold onto, lost his balance and suffered a bruised, black left eye and a cut on his eyebrow that dripped blood onto his white cassock.

The cut was quickly bandaged with a butterfly patch and Francis carried on without incident with his program, sporting a shiner that got increasingly dark as the day wore on.

The highlight of the day was a very personal stop for the Jesuit pope: He prayed at the tomb of St. Peter Claver, the 17th century missionary who ministered to hundreds of thousands of African slaves who were brought through Cartagena’s port during Spanish colonial times to be sold.

And he cited Claver’s courageous and controversial example in urging Colombians to take a courageous first step to reconcile with one another after a half-century of armed conflict.

“Colombia, your brothers and sisters need you. Go out to meet them. Bring them the embrace of peace, free of all violence.

“Be slaves of peace forever,” he said in a final appeal at the end of Mass in Cartagena’s port.

It was a final appeal to Colombians to overcome divisions that linger after the government last year reached a peace deal with leftist rebels hoping to end Latin America’s longest-running armed rebellion. Francis traveled to Colombia to help solidify the deal and encourage Colombians to reconcile.


10. Abortion clinic dispute to be argued in Ohio Supreme Court.

By Julie Carr Smyth, Associated Press, September 10, 2017, 8:09 AM

A dispute over whether to shut down Toledo’s last abortion clinic is headed to the Ohio Supreme Court Tuesday, in a case both sides view as pivotal.

At issue in oral arguments will be the state health department’s 2014 order shutting down Capital Care of Toledo for lack of a patient-transfer agreement, which would formally authorize the transfer of patients from the clinic to a local hospital.

Such agreements were mandated, and public hospitals barred from providing them, under restrictions Ohio lawmakers passed in 2013.

Abortion-rights groups contend the transfer agreements, as well as the mileage limit and other restrictions not at issue in the case, are medically unnecessary.

The clinic further argues the new licensing laws place an undue burden on women’s right to abortion.

The state argues that the case should be viewed “as a straightforward administrative appeal about a surgical clinic that failed to comply with a health-care regulation designed to protect patient health and safety.”

State attorneys go on to argue that the case is not an abortion case but a case about health regulations.

The seven-member Supreme Court has six Republicans and one Democrat.


11. DACA: Another Chance for Political Unity.

By National Catholic Register, September 9, 2017, Editorial

Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced Sept. 5 the highly anticipated decision by President Donald Trump to gradually rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, President Barack Obama’s 2012 executive order that effectively shielded 800,000 young undocumented  immigrants from deportation. While causing a firestorm of criticism, the actions of the president nevertheless open a window for a bipartisan effort to find the common good on a pressing and polarizing issue.

Hard political reality, however, is causing much of the upheaval involving DACA. While Trump’s move is an effort to fulfill a standing campaign promise to deal with illegal immigration, it is also a tacit recognition that DACA has from the beginning stood on very tenuous legal ground.

When Obama signed the executive order, he acknowledged that it was “a temporary stopgap measure.” Attorney General Sessions stated flatly his opinion that it was not statutorily authorized and could be judged an unconstitutional exercise of discretion by the executive branch.

Both Democrats and Republicans acknowledge that it will likely not survive judicial scrutiny. Further, 10 state attorneys general threatened they would push ahead with a lawsuit if the president did not act against DACA by Sept. 5.

As complicated as DACA might be, this is nevertheless a rare moment of opportunity for the country. By granting a six-month window, the administration has shifted the problem to Congress — which, unlike the president, is constitutionally charged to enact legislation — where there is a chance that comprehensive immigration reform will at last be achieved on a bipartisan basis.

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan acknowledged the window of opportunity: “It is my hope that the House and Senate, with the president’s leadership, will be able to find consensus on a permanent legislative solution that includes ensuring that those who have done nothing wrong can still contribute as a valued part of this great country.”

Members of both parties now have the chance to come together and implement immigration reform that encompasses not only the young people impacted by DACA, but the entire immigration crisis. And if Congress and the president are looking for answers to the problem, there is much that the Church can offer.

The Church begins by recognizing the moral obligation to protect the life and dignity of every human being, especially the most weak and vulnerable, including young people. Government policies should reflect that most fundamental reality. Catholic social teaching reminds us that governments have two important duties: Welcome the stranger with charity and out of recognition of the human person, but also secure the border and enforce the law for the sake of the common good. That means avoiding both an enforcement-only policy and an open-borders policy.

In other words, finding balance between justice and mercy.

In a time of a hyperpolarized political divide that has paralyzed the search for the common good, DACA is a potent reminder that policy decisions and legislation have real-world consequences.


12. What a papal visit means to Colombians.

By Andrea Picciotti-Bayer, Legal Advisor for The Catholic Association Foundation, Catholic News Agency, September 8, 2017

Pope Francis has arrived in Colombia for an unprecedented four-day trip. The press is highlighting the peace accord between the country’s president Manuel Santos and leftist guerrillas, but for most Colombians who will attend the Pope’s gatherings and Masses, this visit is simply about “El Papa” and his tender care for their souls.

Colombians are hardworking people of faith who are too often seen through the lens of the country’s civil strife and drug wars. That the Pope would visit their beautiful country produces great joy and engenders pride and patriotism. This visit is a great moment for the country, but the true importance of the visit is its significance in the personal lives of Colombians.

The last town I lived in was Chinchina, a small town surrounded by coffee and plantain fields. Saint Pope John Paul II visited Chinchina in 1986, the last time a pope visited Colombia

Last year, Chinchina celebrated the 30-year anniversary of JPII’s visit with speeches, parades, and a commemorative Mass at the Basilica. Elders recalled the many efforts made to prepare for the visit, the general excitement of all the inhabitants, and the sense of honor felt in hosting His Holiness and other pilgrims from different parts of the country.

For these humble people, daily life is generally void of variety and excitement. Thirty years after a papal visit, they are still awakened by the memory of witnessing a beloved, sainted pope, and taking part in the history of the Catholic Church.

For Americans, a papal visit is an exciting event that one might be able to attend depending on where one lives. For a smaller, developing nation like Colombia, a visit from the Pope is a defining moment for the country and its people. Francis’ visit will likely generate extensive news reports and commentary about political, economic, and environmental issues at play in Colombia.

And for all the Colombian people – rich, poor, young, and old – the visit of Pope Francis to their “Beloved Land” will undoubtedly mark their lives forever.