1. Pope Criticizes Climate Change Deniers and Trump on DACA.

By Jason Horowitz, The New York Times, September 12, 2017, Pg. A4

As he flew near Caribbean islands devastated by Hurricane Irma on his way back to the Vatican from Colombia on Sunday, Pope Francis said that political leaders and others who denied climate change reminded him of a passage from the psalms about man’s stubbornness.

“Man is stupid, the Bible said,” he said. “It’s like that, when you don’t want to see, you don’t see.”

In a typically wide-ranging news conference that included his questioning of United States President Donald J. Trump’s commitment to issues of life because of his plan to strip undocumented immigrant children of protections from deportation, the pope urged those who denied climate change to consult scientists who had clearly determined it was real and that humanity would “go down” if global warming was not recognized and addressed.

“Then,” he said, “decide and history will judge the decisions.”

On the flight, the pope … appealed again to Mr. Trump, this time on his decision to end President Obama’s Deferred Action for Children Program, known as DACA. The program allows children brought illegally to the United States to stay without fear of deportation. Mr. Trump has given Congress, which has failed to pass immigration overhaul for the last decade, six months to enact legislation to resolve the status of about 800,000 people affected by his decision.

The pope, echoing the excoriation of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops – which called the president’s decision “reprehensible” — argued that the removal of children from families hurt both children and parents.

“I hope they rethink it a bit,” he said. “Because I heard the U.S. president speak. He presents himself as a man who is pro-life. If he is a good pro-life believer he must understand that family is the cradle of life and one must defend its unity,” said Francis


2. Pope Francis says rescinding DACA is not ‘pro-life’.

By Delia Gallagher, CNN, September 12, 2017, 2:31 AM

“The President of the United States presents himself as pro-life and if he is a good pro-lifer, he understands that family is the cradle of life and its unity must be protected,” Francis said.

The Pope’s comments came during a news conference Sunday aboard the papal plane, as he returned to the Vatican after a five-day trip to Colombia. In the wide-ranging Q&A with reporters, the Pope also said history will harshly judge deniers of climate change.

The Pope acknowledged that he was not familiar with the specifics of DACA. “I think this law comes not from parliament but from the executive,” the Pope said. “If that is so, I am hopeful that it will be re-thought.”

Francis said he did not fully understand the crisis in North Korea. “I’ll tell you the truth, I don’t really understand the world of geopolitics,” he said. “I think what I see there is a fight for political interests.”

Francis’ message throughout his five-day visit to Colombia had been one of forgiveness and reconciliation. It is a hard message for many Colombians, who still have the trauma of kidnappings and killings fresh in their minds, but one which seems to have already had an important effect.

The leader of the guerrilla group FARC, Rodrigo Londono, asked forgiveness on Friday for the suffering his group caused to the Colombian people, in an open letter to Pope Francis.


3. Francis says “pro-life” means supporting immigrants, others disagree.

By Christopher White, Crux, September 12, 2017

During his in-flight press conference en route home from Colombia, the pope recalled that “I heard the president of the United States introduce himself as a ‘pro-life’ man.

“A good pro-lifer understands that family is the cradle of life, and that its unity must be defended,” the pope said.

The pope’s remarks came in response to questions regarding Trump’s recent decision to rescind the DACA program, which protects qualified immigrants from deportation – a move the pope says he hopes the president will “rethink.”

Some pro-life activists, however, are wary that the pro-life brand might be getting muddled by the pontiff’s efforts to link immigration to it.

Mallory Quigley, communications director for the Susan B. Anthony List, an organization that aims at electing pro-life leaders, told Crux that she believes the association is unhelpful.

“I think it is problematic to merge all of these issues together into one,” said Quigley.

For Quigley, Trump has kept his promise to be a pro-life president and the pope’s recent comments are a distraction.

“The United States has some of the most permissive, pro-abortion laws on the books … and he [Trump] has absolutely governed as a president who values the sanctity of life from the moment of conception,” she told Crux.

According to Stephen White, a fellow in the Catholic Studies program at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, “the term ‘pro-life’ has usually been applied to issues like abortion, euthanasia, and, increasingly, capital punishment.

“What distinguishes these ‘life issues’ from other important moral issues is that they involve the direct killing of a human being,” said White. “When ‘pro-life’ becomes a synonym for ‘just,’ we tend to lose that distinction.


4. Archbishop Lori: Senators’ questions for Catholic nominee “contrary to Constitution”. 

By Kurt Jensen, Catholic News Service, September 11, 2017

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California, spurred outrage about possible religious tests for judicial appointees when she questioned a Catholic judicial nominee September 6 about what impact her faith would have on her interpretation of the law.

Reaction from Catholic leaders to the hearing for Amy Coney Barrett, nominee for a seat on the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, was swift, with a leading archbishop calling the Senate hearing “deeply disappointing.”

Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Liberty, said the hearing was “deeply disappointing” since a number of senators failed to “simply consider the professional achievements of a nominee for the federal judiciary” and instead “challenged her fitness to serve due to her Catholic faith.”

In a September 8 statement, the archbishop said the line of questioning Barrett received was “contrary to our Constitution and our best national traditions, which protect the free exercise of one’s faith and reject religious tests for public office, they are offensive to basic human rights.”

Lori said the questions to Barrett “sadly, harken back to a time in our country when anti-Catholic bigotry did distort our laws and civil order.”

He wondered if the senators’ questions were meant “as a warning shot” for future law students and attorneys not to discuss their faith in a public forum at a time when “we should be encouraging faithful, ethical attorneys to serve in public office, not discouraging them by subjecting them to inappropriate, unnecessary interrogation based on their religious beliefs.”


5. Catholic leaders decry Dems’ questioning of judicial pick.

By Kevin Freking, Associated Press, September 11, 2017, 7:06 PM

Roman Catholic leaders are objecting to Democratic senators’ line of questioning for one of President Donald Trump’s judicial nominees, arguing the focus on her faith is misplaced and runs counter to the Constitution’s prohibition on religious tests for political office.

The outcry stems from the questioning last week of Amy Coney Barrett, a Notre Dame law professor tapped to serve on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. Democrats focused on whether her personal views would override her legal judgment, especially with respect to the landmark 1973 Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., told Barrett that dogma and law are two different things and she was concerned “that the dogma lives loudly within you.”

Feinstein’s comments upset Notre Dame’s president, the Rev. John I. Jenkins, who wrote a letter this past weekend to the senator and the Judiciary Committee, calling the questioning “chilling.” The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said the challenge to Barrett was a painful reminder of a time when “anti-Catholic bigotry did distort our laws and civil order.”

“People of faith, whatever faith they may hold, should not be disqualified because of that faith from serving the public good,” said Archbishop William E. Lori, chairman of the Catholic Bishops’ committee on religious liberty.

Jenkins implored the senators to “respect those in whom ‘dogma lives loudly’ — which is a condition we call faith. For the attempt to live such faith while one respects the legal system should command respect, not evoke concern.”

Jenkins said that Barrett made it clear that she would “follow unflinchingly” all court precedent and, in rare cases in which her conscience would not allow her to do so, she would recuse herself.

Princeton University President Christopher L. Eisgruber said that Barrett’s qualifications, in his view, become stronger because of her willingness to write candidly and intelligently about difficult ethical questions.

“Our universities, our judiciary, and our country will be the poorer if the Senate prefers nominees who remain silent on such topics,” Eisgruber wrote.


6. Congress sits idle in the face of genocide.

By Kenneth W. Starr, former U.S. solicitor general and federal judge, served as independent counsel in the Whitewater and Monica Lewinsky investigations during the Clinton administration, The Washington Post, September 11, 2017, 12:37 PM

In the wake of the Islamic State’s genocidal practices in Iraq, the plight of religious minorities on the plain of Nineveh continues unabated. But instead of sitting on its hands or issuing well-meaning but toothless resolutions, Congress is now only one step away from providing relief to hundreds of thousands of displaced people — including Christians, Yazidis and Muslims — in war-torn Iraq. All that remains is for the Senate to act on H.R. 390, the Iraq and Syria Genocide Emergency Relief and Accountability Act, which was sponsored by Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R-N.J.) and Anna G. Eshoo (D-Calif.) and passed the House of Representatives unanimously on June 6. Unanimity in the People’s House shows that our government can work effectively in support of worthy and humane causes. The time has now come for the world’s greatest deliberative body to act.

The tragic facts of unspeakable cruelty in northern Iraq are well known. A little over a decade ago, as many as 1.4 million Christians made their homes there, like generations before them. Through the Islamic State’s murderous assaults that the European Parliament and more than 200 members of Congress have rightly condemned as genocide, the would-be rulers of the caliphate have left only a small remnant of religious and ethnic minorities — approximately 140,000 in Irbil and 50,000 more dispersed throughout the country. As many as 6,000 Christian refugees live precariously in repurposed shipping containers in Ankawa. 

For many months, the U.S. government has been idle in the face of this historic crisis. … Indeed, the Chaldean Catholic Archdiocese of Irbil has provided virtually all of the shelter, food, medical care and education to more than 80,000 Christians who escaped the Islamic State’s clutches. The archdiocese has also provided humanitarian assistance to displaced Muslims and Yazidis.

As passed unanimously by the House in June, H.R. 390 directs the State Department to use already appropriated funds to provide assistance to minority ethnic and faith communities targeted by the Islamic State for atrocities. To be clear, this is allocation of existing funds that Congress has already set aside for exactly this kind of humanitarian need, not the appropriation of new funds.

The reasons for the Islamic State’s takeover of large swaths of Iraq — as well as Syria — will be debated endlessly in the months and years to come. But that debate can and should proceed without in any way standing in the way of embracing a common-sense response to the profound human suffering that continues to plague tens of thousands of innocent civilians. All that is needed is for the Foreign Relations Committee to approve a universally supported measure that admirably reflects the fundamental decency and humanity of the American people.


7. Pope asks ‘pro-life’ Trump to rethink young migrant decision.

By Nicole Winfield, Associated Press, September 11, 2017, 9:38 AM

Pope Francis is urging President Donald Trump to rethink his decision to end a program protecting young immigrants from deportation, saying anyone who calls himself “pro-life” should keep families together.

“If he is a good pro-life believer he must understand that family is the cradle of life and one must defend its unity,” Francis said during an in-flight press conference en route home from Colombia.

Francis said he hadn’t read up on Trump’s decision to phase out the Deferred Action for Children Program, which allows some immigrants who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children to stay. About 800,000 people are affected by Trump’s decision to give Congress six months to end their limbo status.

But he said in general, removing children from families “isn’t something that bears fruit for either the youngsters or their families.”

“I hope they rethink it a bit,” he said. “Because I heard the U.S. president speak: He presents himself as a person who is pro-life.”

On Sunday, though, he also acknowledged that countries have to manage migrant flows and make sure new migrants can be integrated into society.


8. Pope blasts climate change doubters: cites moral duty to act.

By Nicole Winfield, Associated Press, September 11, 2017, 9:59 AM

Pope Francis has sharply criticized climate change doubters, saying history will judge those who failed to take the necessary decisions to curb heat-trapping emissions blamed for the warming of the Earth.

Francis was asked about climate change and the spate of hurricanes that have pummeled the U.S., Mexico and the Caribbean recently as his charter plane left Colombia on Sunday and flew over some of the devastated areas.

“Those who deny this must go to the scientists and ask them. They speak very clearly,” he said, referring to experts who blame global warming on man-made activities.

Francis said scientists have also clearly charted what needed to be done to reverse course on global warming and said individuals and politicians had a “moral responsibility” to do their part.

“These aren’t opinions pulled out of thin air. They are very clear,” he said. “Then they (leaders) decide and history will judge those decisions.”

For those who have denied climate change, or delayed actions to counter it, he responded with an Old Testament saying: “Man is stupid.”

“When you don’t want to see, you don’t see,” he said.


9. Vatican reform process ‘nearly complete,’ C9 member says.

By Junno Arocho Esteves, Crux, September 11, 2017

Pope Francis’s international Council of Cardinals – the so-called C9 – is nearly done with its work of advising the pope on a major reform of the Vatican bureaucracy, the secretary of the council said.

Bishop Marcello Semeraro of Albano, secretary of the council, told Vatican Radio September 11 that “as far as the reform process of the Roman Curia is concerned, it is even more than three-quarters of the way there – it is almost complete.

“It is nearly complete at the level of proposals made to the pope,” he said.

The Council of Cardinals was meeting at the Vatican September 11-13. Francis, who returned from his visit to Colombia September 11, did not attend the first day’s meeting.

Semeraro told Vatican Radio of the council’s work in advising the pope on the reform of the Vatican’s organization and church governance, describing it as a three-step process of “listening” to the contributions from the bishops, the Roman Curia and “many people who have written,” reflecting on those proposals and checking them over.


10. Humanae Vitae Comes Under Fire: Recent developments in Rome indicate a campaign is underway to challenge the encyclical’s prohibition against artificial contraception.

By Edward Pentin, National Catholic Register, September 11, 2017

Half way through the first synod on the family, when it was becoming clear that heterodox agendas were being pursued in heavy-handed and deceptive ways, a well-respected Church figure took me aside at a reception with a pained expression on her face.

“Of course, you realize this is all about Humanae Vitae,” she said. “That’s what I think they’re after. That is their goal.”

What she meant was that the many dissenters of Blessed Paul VI’s 1968 encyclical wanted the Church’s ban on artificial contraception — which Humanae Vitae (The Regulation of Birth) reaffirmed — softened and ultimately undermined.

At the time, her prediction seemed plausible, but too speculative. The synod participants didn’t seem too exercised by the issue, and Humanae Vitae was largely left alone, at least directly. German-speaking prelates, who took a leading role in the controversies during both synods on the family, even spoke warmly of the encyclical at a closing press conference of the second synod.

But as the Church prepares to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Humanae Vitae in 2018, the recent revelation of a four-member stealth commission to study the document — and other subtle and less subtle attempts to weaken the Church’s moral teaching — are making the concerns of the Church figure at the 2014 synod look ominously prescient.

The commission was never formally announced: The veteran Vatican correspondent Marco Tosatti first reported rumors of it, and the Vatican only confirmed its existence after the Italian website Corrispondenza Romana was able to verify the rumors in June, after it obtained a classified memorandum, circulated by Archbishop Giovanni Becciu, the sostituto or deputy, secretary of state.

The memorandum states that the commission is to “promote a comprehensive and authoritative study” of the encyclical to coincide with the anniversary and listed its four members. They include Msgr. Gilfredo Marengo, the commission coordinator who is professor of theological anthropology at the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family, and Msgr. Pierangelo Sequeri, appointed dean of the Pontifical John Paul II Institute last year.

But added to its unannounced beginnings, the mere existence of such a commission has left many suspicious and asking: Why make all the effort to deepen and study something that will not fundamentally change?

Also viewed as suspect is the unprecedented level of access given to the commission members. According to the memorandum, the Pope has given the scholars permission to view the relevant historical archives not only of the Secretariat of State, but also the Vatican Secret Archives and that of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

All of which amounts to a concern that the commission is being used as a cover: to look at the scientific and historical character of the document, but with the ultimate goal of presenting the Pope with enough information for the encyclical’s dissenters to say: “Times have changed — Humanae Vitae needs to be interpreted in the light of conscience, according to the complexity of people’s lives today.”

But the commission is not the only means to maximize this long-awaited opportunity to change Humanae Vitae. Further evidence can be seen in what appears to be a four-year concerted attempt to marginalize the teachings of Pope St. John Paul II, who led the resistance to a relativistic interpretation of the encyclical.

The operation to marginalize John Paul II ahead of next year’s anniversary has been visible in two primary ways: First, by largely ignoring his teachings during the previous two synods to allow the kind of “paradigm shift” in the Church’s moral teaching that found its way into Amoris Laetitia.

Second, by overhauling the leadership of the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family, respectively replacing its chancellor and dean with Archbishop Paglia and Msgr. Sequeri. Both are known supporters of softening the teaching of Humanae Vitae.

Finally, there are Pope Francis’ own comments regarding the encyclical’s teaching. Asked in 2014 if the Church should revisit the issue of contraception, he replied: “It all depends on how the text of Humanae Vitae is interpreted. Paul VI himself, toward the end, recommended that confessors show great kindness and attention to specific situations.”

He added it is not a question of “changing doctrine, but to go into the depths, and ensuring that pastoral [efforts] take into account people’s situations, and that, which it is possible for people to do.”

The Pope also last year praised one of the most prominent dissenters of Humanae Vitae, the German moral theologian Bernard Häring. And speaking to reporters in February last year, Francis cited favorably a mythological story of Paul VI allowing nuns in the Congo to use contraception for cases of violence.

So what is likely to happen? The commission will have no authority to enact changes, and, already, there are reports of divisions among them that will weaken its purpose. But some cardinals, bishops and theologians, as well as elements of the media, will use this opportunity to try to persuade Francis to modify Humanae Vitae using the strategies outlined above as well as others. From the other side, pressure will be exerted to leave the encyclical alone on the grounds that it has proven so prophetic and that the Church’s teaching on artificial contraception is based on her infallible moral teaching.

Debates will, therefore, deepen over the coming months, as the document considered the lynchpin of the Church’s resistance to the collapse in sexual morality in the West comes under intensified attack, directed not from the secular world or a few dissenting theologians and bishops this time, but from some of the most senior figures in the Church.


11. Sex, sanity, and beliefs that ‘live loudly’ within us.

By Archbishop Charles Chaput, O.F.M. Cap., CatholicPhilly.com, September 8, 2017

Nobody wants to be told what to do.  But most of us urgently want to be inside the constantly shifting range of acceptable opinions.

A good example happened last week.

On Tuesday, August 29, a group of prominent evangelical scholars and pastors — including respected public voices like Russell Moore — issued the “Nashville Statement.”  It’s worth reading in the original, rather than reading about it.  Nothing in the document is shocking or belligerent.

On the contrary:  In its preamble and 14 articles, the text simply reaffirms historic biblical beliefs about marriage, chastity and the nature of human sexuality. Critics might question its timing or structure or wording.  Some evangelicals have done so.  In a normal time, though, the Statement would be a non-story.

But we don’t live in a “normal” time. We live in the midst of a culture war.  A methodical effort is now playing out in the mass media to recast biblical truths as a form of “hate,” to reshape public opinion away from those biblical truths, and to silence anyone who stays faithful to Christian teaching on matters of sexual behavior, sexual identity, family and marriage.

The message is simple:  Conform to the new herd dogmas or enjoy the consequences.  Which explains the river of public contempt that was quickly poured out on the Nashville Statement.

Happily, three days after the Statement, Cardinal Robert Sarah approached some of the same issues from a Catholic perspective in the Wall Street Journal.  Sarah stressed that “to love someone as Christ loves us means to love that person in the truth.”

Sexuality is a gift from God with beauty and purpose.  Within marriage, sexual intimacy is a source of unity, joy and new life.  At the same time, Scripture is clear about the destructive nature of promiscuity in any form.  The call to chastity applies to all persons, whatever their sexual inclinations.

Having said all of the above, what’s the point of this column?

It’s this:  God exists.  His Creation has a natural order.  Our sexuality is part of that life-giving order.  Sooner or later, nature defeats ideology.  It doesn’t matter how strong or widely shared or persuasive a bad system of ideas might seem to be.  It will always lose.  The trouble, as we learned in the last century, is that foolish and perverse thinking can take a long time to die.  And it can ruin countless lives and poison whole societies in the process.

Sex intimately informs our idea of what and who we are as human beings.  Sexual behavior and relationships are never purely private matters.  They always have social implications and consequences.  The dysfunctions in our nation’s current attitudes toward sex thus amount to a kind of mental virus, a flight from reason and common sense.

There’s plenty of evidence for what I’ve just said, and it’s worth examining.  I’ll recommend two excellent places to start.  In fact, both are “must-reads.”

The first resource is Ashley McGuire, a founding editor of altFem magazine (altfemmag.com), and one of the most gifted young writers, cultural critics and lecturers in the United States.  She’s also a wife and mother, and she brings all these skills to bear in Sex Scandal: The Drive to Abolish Male and Female (Regnery), published earlier this year.

The title is impish, and McGuire writes with style, energy and sardonic irony.  She starts from the premise that “Somehow, it has become a violation of the accepted code of conduct to suggest that men and women are different, and to act accordingly.”

Then she proves it with a news tour of the cultural front lines — documenting one vivid, factual example after another of our current delusions about sex and gender, and the human debris they leave in their wake.

The second resource is Mark Regnerus.  

Regnerus’s latest book is Cheap Sex: The Transformation of Men, Marriage and Monogamy(Oxford University Press).  It’s an important, well-written, deeply absorbing piece of scholarship on the modern mating market – vital reading for anyone who wants to understand the dynamics of current American sexual behaviors, with the hard social research Regnerus provides to back up his conclusions.

I’ll end with a news item and a thought.

Here’s the news item.  Professor Amy Barrett is a distinguished (Catholic) law professor at the University of Notre Dame.  She’s also a White House nominee to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals.  In confirmation hearings on Wednesday, September 6, Democratic Senators repeatedly raised thinly veiled questions about Barrett’s suitability to serve linked to her Catholic faith.

But the day’s signature line came from Democrat Dianne Feinstein.  The senator worried to Barrett that “dogma lives loudly in you” – this, from a person whose dogmatic decibel level on abortion “rights” could break windows.

Here’s the thought.  A great many faithful Christians still do let their convictions “live loudly” in their hearts and actions.  It’s called witness.  What it takes is a little courage.  So maybe they — and all the rest of us who seek to follow Jesus Christ — should turn up the volume.