1. A Liberal ‘Gets’ Religion, A U.S. Civil Rights Commission report on religious liberty is so bad, it’s good. By William McGurn, The Wall Street Journal, September 13, 2016, Pg. A9, Main Street.

Mr. Castro is chairman of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, a venerable institution dating to 1957 that has helped America kill Jim Crow and make good on our founding promises. An Obama appointee, Mr. Castro last Wednesday made public a report on nondiscrimination protections—increasingly about gender preference and sexual orientation—that in its crassness rivals Hillary Clinton’s belittling of Donald Trump supporters.

Here’s Mr. Castro: “The phrases ‘religious liberty’ and ‘religious freedom’ will stand for nothing except hypocrisy so long as they remain code words for discrimination, intolerance, racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, Christian supremacy or any form of intolerance.”
Mr. Castro’s is the prevailing view among progressives. Barack Obama alluded to it when he derided small-town Americans bitterly clinging to guns or religion (i.e., the Second and First Amendments). Ditto for Mrs. Clinton, who in a remark about reproductive rights declared that “deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs and structural biases have to be changed.”


2. Funding Planned Parenthood, or Not, May Be Key to Keeping the Government Open, By Emmarie Huetteman, The New York Times, September 13, 2016, Pg. A10.

Republican leaders looking to avoid a government shutdown one month before Election Day will have to jump a familiar hurdle: demands from some of their members to cut off funding for Planned Parenthood.

Democrats have accused Republicans of inserting language targeting Planned Parenthood into the Zika funding legislation to bait them into blocking it. The measure would primarily withhold funding from two Planned Parenthood clinics in Puerto Rico that do not offer screening for the virus, but to Democrats, any limitation on Planned Parenthood sets a dangerous precedent that Republicans could exploit.

The measure is so vague that after multiple votes on the legislation, few from either party seem to clearly understand what the provision — which does not mention Planned Parenthood by name but places limitations almost exclusively on those two clinics — would do. Yet, in a demonstration of just how politicized Planned Parenthood has become, both sides have shown they are willing to wage war over it.


3. On anniversary, can we finally catch Benedict’s point at Regensburg?, John L. Allen Jr., Editor, The Crux, September 12, 2016.

Today marks the tenth anniversary of perhaps the most controversial papal speech of the last half-century, an address given by emeritus Pope Benedict XVI in Regensburg, Germany, in 2006, which sparked a firestorm of protest across the Islamic world.

In the opening section of the speech, Benedict cited a 14th century dialogue between a Byzantine emperor and a Persian, in which the emperor said provocatively: “Show me just what Mohammad brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.”

Taken in tandem with Benedict’s preexisting image as an arch-conservative and cultural warrior, the citation was shot out of a media cannon with deadly consequences. An Italian nun was shot to death in Somalia, churches were firebombed on the Gaza strip, and the pontiff was burned in effigy in the streets of Ankara.

When he traveled to Turkey just two months later, he was constrained to send signals of friendship with Muslims at every turn, and his spokesmen were almost desperate to insist the pontiff did not intend to launch a new crusade.

Ten years later, there’s a mounting sense that perhaps the world owes Benedict an apology. The rise of the Islamic State, Al-Shabaab, Boko Haram, and other extremist Islamic movements, and the continual waves of terror and barbarism they generate, has created a sense that perhaps it wasn’t Benedict who stumbled by pointing out that Islam has a problem – perhaps it’s Muslims who haven’t responded to the problem adequately.

Lost in the noise, however, is the central thing to know about the Regensburg speech, to wit: It’s not really about Islam at all.


4. Seeing Trump v. Clinton through Catholic eyes, John L. Allen Jr., Editor, The Crux, September 12, 2016.

In a political season in which the formerly inconceivable has become the new normal, however, predictions of any sort probably ought to be taken with a grain of salt.

Here’s something that’s not a prediction, but an established fact: No matter what happens, this is among the most turbulent and improbable elections in American history. Either we’re going to elect our first female commander-in-chief, with a record on social issues regarded by a broad swath of the country as anathema, or a populist tycoon and TV personality seen by an equally large chunk of the population as staggeringly unsuited to lead.

All this has to be teaching us something about where things stand in America in the early 21st century. Exactly what those lessons are will be dissected and debated for some time, no matter what happens two months from now, but already at least three points seem reasonably clear.

Seen through Catholic eyes, each seems to suggest serious challenges, but also that the Church in America has a fairly unique potential to make a difference.


 5. Pope’s anti-sex abuse panel scores victory in Vatican, By Nicole Winfield, Crux, September 12, 2016.

Pope Francis’ sex abuse commission has scored a victory within the Vatican: Members have been invited to address Vatican congregations and a training course for new bishops, suggesting that the Holy See now considers child protection programs to be an important responsibility for church leaders.

Commission members praised the development as a breakthrough given that bishops have long been accused of covering up for abusers by moving pedophile priests from parish to parish rather than reporting them to police. For decades, the Vatican too turned a blind eye and failed to take action against problem priests or their bishop enablers.

Commission members have already addressed the Vatican congregations for priests and religious orders and the Vatican’s diplomatic school. This week, members including Irish abuse survivor Marie Collins will address the new bishops’ course, which the Vatican hosts for all bishops named in the previous year to teach them how to run their dioceses.


6. US Bishops to government: End legal standoff with the Little Sisters, By Matt Hadro, Catholic News Agency, September 12, 2016, 2:50 PM.

The United States government has an opportunity to end its legal battle with the Little Sisters of the Poor and the administration must “seize that opportunity,” legal experts are maintaining.

“In a nation dedicated to religious liberty, church-state conflict on this scale should be avoided whenever possible – and once started, ended as soon and as agreeably as possible,” legal counsel for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops stated in Sept. 9 comments to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

They added that “it has now been spelled out with particular clarity how the Administration can achieve its stated policy goals without forcing those with sincerely held religious objections to assist.”


7. The United States Bars Christian, Not Muslim, Refugees From Syria, by Elliott Abrams Council on Foreign Relations Online, September 9, 2016.

The title of this blog post–The United States Bars Christian, Not Muslim, Refugees From Syria–will strike many readers as ridiculous.

But the numbers tell a different story: The United States has accepted 10,801 Syrian refugees, of whom 56 are Christian. Not 56 percent; 56 total, out of 10,801. That is to say, one half of one percent. The BBC says that ten percent of all Syrians are Christian, which would mean 2.2 million Christians. It is quite obvious, and President Obama and Secretary Kerry have acknowledged it, that Middle Eastern Christians are an especially persecuted group.

So how is it that one half of one percent of the Syrian refugees we’ve admitted are Christian, or 56, instead of about 1,000 out of 10,801–or far more, given that they certainly meet the legal definition? The definition: someone who “is located outside of the United States; Is of special humanitarian concern to the United States; Demonstrates that they were persecuted or fear persecution due to race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group.” Somewhere between a half million and a million Syrian Christians have fled Syria, and the United States has accepted 56. Why?