1. No Catholic Judges? Someone Tell Scalia: Queries about an official’s faith have been answered before—by JFK and others. 

By William A. Galston, The Wall Street Journal, September 20, 2017, Pg. A17

During Ms. Barrett’s confirmation hearing earlier this month, California Sen. Dianne Feinstein said that “dogma and law are two different things” and told the nominee that “dogma lives loudly within you.” The suggestion that Catholics who embrace the teachings of their church cannot honor their judicial oaths drew a pained response from the Rev. John Jenkins, president of Notre Dame. “I am one in whose heart ‘dogma lives loudly,’ ” he said, “as it has for centuries in the lives of many Americans, some of whom have given their lives in service to this nation.”

None of these Catholics [President Kennedy, Justice Scalia, Justice Brennan, Governor Mario Cuomo] in public life took the position that he had the right to use his office to impose his faith on others. Ms. Barrett doesn’t either. She stated repeatedly during her Senate hearing that it is “never appropriate” to do so and that her religious affiliation and beliefs “would not bear on the discharge of my duties as a judge.”

But instead of giving priority to civil law, as Justice Brennan did, or insisting that resignation is the only way to resolve a conflict of conscience, as Justice Scalia did, her law-review article recommended something else: recusal on a case-by-case basis. This was what she and Mr. Garvey believed to be the best way of ensuring that Catholic judges neither betray their conscience nor impose its duties on fellow citizens.

Whatever its merits, this stance fits squarely within America’s judicial tradition—and it has nothing to do with dogma.


2. Expect the Inquisition.

By Ross Douthat, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, September 20, 2017

And in the interest of securing some rare common ground, I think his [Professor Massimo Faggioli of Villanova] analysis of what is happening to Catholic life under Francis — the rise of informal inquisitions, the paralysis of Catholic institutions, the failure of normal ecclesiastical structures — contains some important truth.

Where he’s wrong is in suggesting that this is just a right-wing Catholic phenomenon, and that it’s just an unfortunate, internet-abetted byproduct of Pope Francis’s attempted liberalization and decentralization.

In fact the conflicting inquisitions, liberal and conservative, are the all-but-inevitable result of the pope’s decisions to stir the church’s tensions into civil war again, and then to fight for the liberal side using ambiguous statements and unofficial interventions rather than the explicit powers of his office. Indeed, when Professor Faggioli complains about a “Catholic social media that has completely bypassed” the way the “Catholic Church has worked for centuries,” he might just as easily be describing Pope Francis, whose personalized style has made the lines of authority within the church maddeningly unclear.

In this environment, anyone who wishes to know what the pope really thinks is better off ignoring official Vatican offices and instead listening to the coterie of papal advisers who take to Twitter to snipe against his critics.

As a result the only Catholic certainty now is uncertainty. Under Francis the church’s teaching on communion for remarried divorcees varies from country to country and diocese to diocese, and even papal admirers can’t seem to agree on what the official Vatican position entails.

This is a situation calculated to make everyone feel self-righteous and self-justified, to complain about toxic rhetoric while flinging insults frequently themselves.

Instead the only serious course is to invite serious argument and encourage respectful debate.

It is hard to know what will come of this era’s Catholic crisis. Can the church really become Anglican, with sharply different Christian theologies coexisting permanently under a latitudinarian umbrella? Is the period of dueling inquisitions and digital militias a prelude to the sweeping liberal victory that many Catholics felt that John Paul and Benedict cruelly forestalled? Will the pendulum swing back, as Francis’s nervous allies fear, leaving his legacy to be buried by young traditionalists and a reactionary pontiff in the style of HBO’s “Young Pope”?

Faith gives some observers certain answers, but natural reason counsels doubt. Regardless, firings and cancellations and self-protective censorship will not make the conflict any less painful in the end. There is no way forward save through controversy. Postpone the inquisitions; schedule arguments instead.


3. Slain teen’s mother urges Congress to amend web law. 

By Tom Jackman, The Washington Post, September 20, 2017, Pg. A4

After leading a two-year investigation into online sex trafficking which focused largely on the classified ads website Backpage, Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) introduced a bill which he and 28 co-sponsors believe will close a crucial loophole of immunity for sites which host prostitution-related advertising: an amendment to the Communications Decency Act which shields web hosts from liability for content posted by others. The bill, titled the “Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act,” would add language that exempts “sex trafficking of children” and “sex trafficking by force” from Section 230 of the communications act, which was written in 1996 and credited by many with allowing the Internet to flourish without threat of costly litigation or regulation. It would also clarify that state and local prosecutors can pursue violators under federal law, as could plaintiffs in state civil courts.

The Senate, and the House in a similar bill introduced by Rep. Ann Wagner (R-Mo.), was moved to action after a series of court rulings in cases involving Backpage. When the website has been sued by young women who were sold for sex there, or prosecuted by law enforcement authorities in Illinois and California, judges have ruled that Section 230 of the CDA grants Backpage immunity because it is merely hosting the sex-related content, not creating it. “Judges across the country have made it clear,” Portman said, “it is Congress’s responsibility to fix this law.”

The Internet Association, which represents tech giants such as Google, Facebook and Amazon, weighed in against the bill as well. Abigail Slater, the association’s general counsel, said the association’s companies are “100 percent committed to stopping Internet sex trafficking,” and noted that Google and others developed software called “Spotlight” which combs through millions of online ads and flags potential child victims. But she said the proposed term “knowing conduct” could be used by a prosecutor to go after a website which only knows that its users are communicating, not what the content is, and civil lawsuits could take a similar approach. Slater said the association prefers a carefully crafted law enabling victims to pursue their traffickers through civil actions.


4. Seeking pro-life leadership at the National Institutes of Health: The agency could be a leader in ethical science and medicine, but a void exists there now.

By Jim Banks and David A. Prentice, Jim Banks is a U. S. representative from Indiana. David A. Prentice is vice president and research director at the Charlotte Lozier Institute, the research and education arm of the Susan B. Anthony List, The Washington Times, September 20, 2017, Pg. B4, Opinion

Dr. Francis Collins has not shown any pro-life leadership at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). In fact, in an interview, Dr. Collins‘ response to a congressional letter outlining pro-life members’ concerns dripped with condescension, implying that the group of 41 congressmen understood neither the science nor the ethics of embryo and stem cell experiments. Dr. Collins owes us an apology. We know the science, use the scientifically accurate terms and know the ethical facts. Dr. Collins‘ positions at NIH have not been pro-life.

His lack of pro-life leadership might have been expected when he served under the previous administration, which was the antithesis of pro-life. However, now Dr. Collins has agreed to work for President Trump, who campaigned on a pro-life agenda. Will Dr. Collins change his positions and adjust his agenda? When will we have a pro-life NIH Director who reflects the policy of our president?

As one example of the void in pro-life leadership, Dr. Collins designed and oversees the NIH registry of human embryonic stem cell lines, a listing of cells — created by destroying young human embryos — that are eligible for hundreds of millions in federal taxpayer dollars. Dr. Collins continuously approves cells for this registry, and did so most recently in March and again in June of this year.

Will Dr. Collins voice his support for adult stem cell research and redirect funding toward patient-focused science?

The House of Representatives has shown tangible support for this idea with the introduction of H.R. 2918, the Patients First Act of 2017. The bill would direct HHS to prioritize adult stem cell research that has the best chance of producing near-term benefits in patients without the creation, destruction, or risk of injury to human embryos. Furthermore, the bill advocates for the ethical approach without authorizing any additional spending.

The NIH can be a world leader in successful, ethical science and medicine. But this shift requires a pro-life leader at the helm.


5. Senate Confirms Noel Francisco as U.S. Solicitor General: Appointment comes ahead of Supreme Court term that will see Trump administration facing legal challenges on issues ranging from immigration to gay rights.

By Jess Bravin, The Wall Street Journal, September 20, 2017, Pg. A6

The Senate confirmed Noel Francisco as U.S. solicitor general Tuesday, just ahead of a Supreme Court term that will see the Trump administration facing legal challenges on issues ranging from immigration to gay rights.

The Senate divided 50-to-47 along partisan lines, reflecting a distrust among some Democrats toward any lawyer—even an accomplished professional—who would step forward to pursue President Donald Trump’s legal agenda. The solicitor general represents the federal government before the Supreme Court.

Mr. Francisco, 49, brings a prestigious and conservative pedigree to his new position. The Syracuse, N.Y., native received bachelor’s and law degrees from the University of Chicago before clerking for two influential jurists, the late Justice Antonin Scalia and former U.S. Circuit Judge J. Michael Luttig.

In private practice, Mr. Francisco argued three times before the Supreme Court, each instance for a Republican candidate or conservative cause. In March 2016, he represented Catholic Charities of the Pittsburgh Diocese and other religious nonprofits seeking exemption from an Affordable Care Act regulation requiring them to include contraceptive coverage in employee health plans. The court, then reduced to eight members following the death of Justice Scalia, issued an inconclusive decision later that year.

Mr. Francisco also successfully challenged President Barack Obama’s recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board, winning a ruling that narrowed the president’s scope for filling vacancies. In 2016, he persuaded the justices unanimously to overturn former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell’s corruption convictions.


6. Cakewalk to the Constitution: The man who refused to bake a cake for a gay wedding gets his day in court.

By The Washington Times, September 20, 2017, Pg. B2, Editorial

The U.S. Supreme Court takes up a free speech case in the October term, and making the right decision should be a piece of cake. The justices will be asked to decide whether the government can require someone to say something he doesn’t want to say.

The impact of the court’s ruling on Masterpiece Cakeshop Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission will extend far beyond Colorado and the case of Jack Phillips, a Lakewood, Colo., baker who refused to bake — and decorate — a wedding cake for two men. Mr. Phillips argues that being compelled to do that under penalty of law would infringe his right to free expression, and his right to the free exercise of his religious beliefs.

Others have been put in similar binds in Kentucky, New Mexico and Oregon by litigation brought by the gay-rights lobby demanding “tolerance” while giving none in return. Bakers, photographers, florists and other creative professionals have similarly stood up to the bullying, and have more than passing interest in the Masterpiece Cakeshop ruling.

The High Court’s decision — likely to be 5 to 4, depending on which way Justice Anthony Kennedy swings when he wakes up on the day he must decide — will probably be withheld until the final day of the term at the end of June.

Tolerating the opinions and rights of others is not always “a piece of cake,” but that’s how tolerance works. The Constitution forbids the suppression of speech, and it forbids compelling the expression of speech. This is language plain and clear enough for anyone to understand, and the Supreme Court has the opportunity — and the responsibility — to say again what should be obvious to everyone.


7. Pope overhauls key institute to reflect his vision of family. 

By Nicole Winfield, Associated Press, September 19, 2017, 1:51 PM

Pope Francis has overhauled the Vatican institute most closely associated with the conservative sexual morals promoted by St. John Paul II, saying it was necessary to adapt and expand its mission to address the reality of today’s Catholics.

Officials said Tuesday the revamped John Paul II Theological Institute for the Marriage and Family Sciences will offer degrees in the social sciences — such as sociology, anthropology, psychology — as well as biology and other sciences, reflecting a vision of the family that goes well beyond strict Catholic theology.

The inclusion of biological sciences in the curriculum, and a mission statement that cites a focus on human “regeneration” and care for the planet, suggests that the revamped institute will address human sexuality, the environment and the church’s position on artificial contraception.

Already, Francis has authorized a historical study of the 1968 document “Humanae Vitae,” which articulated the church’s opposition to artificial contraception at a time when the church was under attack by population control activists.