1. China’s Main Threat Is a Moral One, The U.S. should fight Beijing’s cruelty to religion along with its economic and military breaches.

By  Russell Moore, The Wall Street Journal, September 23, 2019, Pg. A19, Commentary

China is imposing a reign of terror on religious minorities—Christian, Tibetan Buddhist, Uighur Muslim, Falun Gong and others. The state is using everything from concentration camps to facial-recognition technology to ensure that the only worship and belief allowed is that which submits to Chinese Communist orthodoxy. People who resist this mandate are ruthlessly plowed over.

The massive scope of China’s crimes can make it seem as if there’s little Americans can do. We are tempted to see the Chinese people merely as units of economic possibility rather than as human beings in peril, with real lives and souls. While no quick strategy could completely roll back Beijing’s cruelty, there are many steps the U.S. could immediately take to confront China—morally as well as economically.

 We will continue to debate how best to counter China economically and militarily. Yet surely Americans, the heirs of Jefferson, Madison, Truman and Reagan, can agree that we must begin the long and good work of confronting China morally. The persecuted people there do not bear the image of the Chinese Communist Party membership card, nor do they bear the image of a bar code for international commerce. They bear the image of a Creator above the reach of any state, no matter that it pretends to be a god.

Render unto China that which is China’s, but its people’s souls aren’t part of that deal.

Mr. Moore is president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention.


2. Judge to hear arguments in challenge to Georgia abortion law.

The Associated Press, September 23, 2019, 1:19 AM

A federal judge is set to hear arguments over whether Georgia’s restrictive new abortion law should be allowed to take effect while a legal challenge is pending.

The law bans abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected, which can occur as early as six weeks into a pregnancy. It allows for limited exceptions.


3. Will the Supreme Court Nix Montana’s Anti-Catholic ‘Blaine Amendment’?

By Kathryn Jean Lopez, National Review Online, September 23, 2019, 6:30 AM

School choice and religious liberty are on the docket.

As a second-grader, Raelyn Sukhbir used to cry every night. She was being bullied “unmercifully” in the public school she was attending. Life at home was miserable because the poor girl was so anxious and despondent — which had her parents worried about how bad things might be all the rest of the time, when she wasn’t home. Raelyn “did not want to be around other kids and was clingy whenever we would visit friends,” her mother told lawyer Andrea Picciotti-Bayer. “She did not want to participate in any activities or sports.” Her father, a retired army veteran who was injured in Afghanistan, talked to the teachers and administrators, but there was no improvement.

Brittany and Kyle Sukhbir had heard good things about the nearby St. Mary’s Catholic school — that it had a “zero tolerance policy” against bullying. Picciotti-Bayer writes that “the Sukhbirs did not think that they could afford private school, but the daily bullying simply became too much for Raelyn to bear.” They contacted the school just before Christmas, and Raelyn spent a day trying on the school. “Every single teacher knew her name, and every student was excited to meet Raelyn and play with her,” her mother said.

Two years later, the girl is transformed. She’s not shy and reserved anymore, but outgoing. She fully participates in the life of the school, including sports. “St. Mary’s is teaching self-confidence and kindness,” her mother reports. She’s thriving academically, and even the Sukhbirs’ family life is better. “Now that Raelyn is no longer crying when she comes home from school, we can really enjoy being together,” Brittany says.

Piccioti-Bayer interviewed Brittany Sukhbir and other parents of children benefiting from tuition assistance, for an amicus brief just filed at the U.S. Supreme Court by the Catholic Association Foundation. The brief is in support of a challenge to a decision by the Montana supreme court that religious schools cannot benefit from public tuition aids — not even from tax credits for people donating to private scholarship funds. (The Institute for Justice is representing moms of Montana.) The case, Espinoza v. Montana Department of Taxation, has the potential to remove the anti-Catholic Blaine amendments that remain in many state constitutions. Such a decision could change children’s lives in America.

Some but not all of the parents Piccioti-Bayer interviewed are Catholic. Catholic schools serve all. In some settings, such as Montana, the students are mostly non-Catholic. Parents choose these schools because of they are staffed by educators with a missionary, vocational approach. The families Piccioti-Bayer talked with experienced religious education as the leaven it is — communities where human dignity is respected and served in gratitude for the gift of life.


4. Mixing Politics and Piety, a Priest Seeks to Shape Poland’s Future.

By Marc Santora and Joanna Berendt, The New York Times, September 22, 2019, Pg. A8

From the martyrs of World War II to the heroes who led the fight against communist rule, priests in Poland have long played an outsize role in shaping the political life of this deeply Catholic country.

And in Poland today, there is no more politically powerful — or divisive — cleric than the man referred to as “Father Director,” the Rev. Tadeusz Rydzyk.

Something of a cross between the televangelist Pat Robertson and Rush Limbaugh, Father Rydzyk wields power both from the pulpit and through his vast media empire.


5. Key papal aide, new cardinal not worried about Amazon synod ferment.

By Elise Harris, Crux, September 22, 2019

Soon-to-be Cardinal Michael Czerny, one of Pope Francis’s top aides who serves as both the public face of Francis’s agenda for migrants and refugees and who is also playing a key role in organizing next month’s Synod of Bishops on the Amazon, has said he’s not worried about the criticism the summit is generating.

In Czerny’s view, the global attention the synod is getting, even if at times negative, is a sign of how important its agenda is.

Speaking to the press during the Sept. 20 presentation of a new “Amazon: Common Home” project, Czerny said, “We welcome the interest in this synod,” adding that the buzz over certain talking points, such as married priests, is “already something interesting.”


6. Hong Kong Catholic leaders: Vatican involvement in protests unlikely.

By Jonah McKeown, Catholic News Agency, September 22, 2019, 11:01 AM

Catholics in Hong Kong are continuing to participate in large-scale protests on the island territory, which have been going on now for over 100 days.

Despite the protests’ importance to people of faith, two Catholic leaders in the movement— the island’s auxiliary bishop and a student leader— told CNA that they do not expect the Vatican to weigh in on the situation in Hong Kong.

“It doesn’t seem to me that it’s necessary for the Holy See to get involved in the protests of Hong Kong. On the other hand, I have not spoken with anyone from the Holy See regarding the movement,” Bishop Joseph Ha Chi-shing told CNA Sept. 19.

Bishop Ha has been publicly supportive of the protests, as has Hong Kong’s bishop emeritus, Cardinal Joseph Zen. Ha has taken part in ecumenical prayer rallies with protesters in the past, urged an increase in prayer and said he is concerned for the safety of the many young people involved in the protests.


7. ‘Marxism’ Pervades Catholic Church in Germany.

National Catholic Register, September 22, 2019, Editorial

A primary reason for the synodal push is that, for decades, many Church leaders in Germany have been convinced that only novel and radical change can stave off the impending collapse of Christianity in their country.

Thanks to the efforts of the German bishops under the leadership of Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich-Freising, the Church in Germany is poised to pursue a radical “binding synodal path” that seeks to dislodge settled Church teaching in the name of “synodality.”

In so doing, these German Catholic “Marxists” appear bent on emulating the disastrous ideological mistake so often made by the followers of Karl Marx, of insisting on the implementation of a flawed revolutionary “solution” despite an abundance of evidence that their radical measures are making the problem far worse, not better.

The German Church’s controversial plan includes the creation of an unprecedented “Synodal Assembly” in close partnership with the Central Committee of German Catholics, a lay group that has demanded the ordination of women, an end to clerical celibacy, the blessing of same-sex unions by the Church and rethinking of all Catholic teachings on sexuality.

This proposed Synodal Assembly will have “deliberative power” to force these changes upon Catholics in Germany, and its proponents openly intend to offer the largely preordained fruits of this synodal process to Catholics worldwide as a blueprint for the future.

It remains to be seen what the final document created by the German Church’s synodal process will look like. Given the apparent determination of Cardinal Marx and many of the German bishops to defy both the Pope and the Church’s magisterium, however, the “synodal way” being put forth by these “Catholic Marxists” seems a short road to chaos and division in the Church.

And it’s ironic in the extreme that accusations of schismatic intentions have been directed recently against U.S. Church leaders, as Father Raymond de Souza notes. The threat of schism lies in Germany, not along American shores.

Pray for the Church in Germany, and pray that we might avoid all schism and division in the Church.


8. Why America’s Abortion Rate Might Be Higher Than It Appears, Evidence suggests more American women are “self-managing” their abortions.

By Claire Cain Miller and Margot Sanger-Katz, The New York Times, September 21, 2019, Pg. A21

The number of abortions performed in American clinics was lower in 2017 than in any year since abortion became legal nationwide in 1973, new data showed this week. But that does not count a growing number of women who are managing their abortions themselves, without going to a medical office — often by buying pills illicitly.

These “invisible” abortions are hard to measure, so it’s unclear how much higher the true abortion rate is. But researchers say self-managed abortions have risen as abortion has become more restricted in certain states, and as more people have learned that effective pills can be ordered online or purchased across the border.

The black market for abortion pills has changed the landscape for those lacking easy access to an abortion clinic or preferring to have an abortion in private. The pills are harder to regulate than in-clinic abortions; they can be easily hidden and shipped, and women can take them at home and appear to have had a spontaneous miscarriage.

In a 2017 editorial in the American Journal of Public Health, Diana Greene Foster, a professor at the University of California, San Francisco, said the leading explanations for the drop in abortions — better contraception, less sexual activity among young people, and legal restrictions — didn’t suffice. Women using the most effective forms of contraception, she noted, seemed to come from different demographic subgroups than the groups with the biggest abortion declines.


9. In season of synods, Italy may be next to see if pope’s gamble pays off.

By John L. Allen Jr., Editor, Crux, September 21, 2019

We already know about the controversial Synod of Bishops for the Amazon set to open in the Vatican on Oct. 6, and a tug-of-war between Rome and the German bishops over plans for a two-year national “synodal journey” has also been well chronicled. In October 2020, the Church in Australia will gather for its first plenary council since the Second Vatican Council (1962-65).

Now, it seems, we may soon be able to add Italy to the list of places either contemplating or planning its own synod. In this case, the press is coming from the Primate of Italy himself, meaning the pope, and his closest allies.

The drumbeat began in February with an essay by Italian Jesuit Father Antonio Spadaro in Civiltà Cattolica, the Jesuit-edited journal directed by Spadaro which enjoys semi-official Vatican status.

“Only an effective exercise of synodality within the Church can help us read our situation today and engage in discernment,” Spadaro wrote, making the case for a national synod. “And this can only happen thanks to broad involvement of the People of God, in a synodal process that’s not restricted either to the elites of Catholic thought or to the contexts (specific and important) of formation.”

Of course, the Church isn’t a democracy. Nevertheless, Francis and his team appear determined to inject a greater democratic spirit in Catholicism through the revival of synods, trusting it will strengthen the pope’s hand, and Italy may well be next up to see if the gamble pays off.


10. Patient records found at shuttered Indiana abortion clinics.

By Rick Callahan, The Associated Press, September 20, 2019

Investigators found thousands of abandoned medical records at three shuttered Indiana abortion clinics that were operated by a late doctor who took home more than 2,200 sets of fetal remains, Indiana’s attorney general said Friday.

No fetal remains were found during Thursday’s searches of Dr. Ulrich Klopfer’s former clinics and other properties in Gary, South Bend and Fort Wayne, Attorney General Curtis Hill said at a news conference. But he said thousands of patient medical records were discovered, though he didn’t give an exact number.

Women getting abortions have “a high degree of expectation of privacy and confidentiality,” but the medical records found at Klopfer’s clinics had simply been “abandoned” there, Hill said. The Fort Wayne clinic closed in 2014, and the Gary and South Bend clinics closed the following year.

Hill said his office hopes to determine why 2,246 sets of fetal remains from abortions performed in 2000, 2001 and 2002 in Indiana ended up in the garage of Klopfer’s home in Will County, Illinois. Klopfer died on Sept. 3 and his widow and her sister found the remains last week and alerted the authorities.


11. Tennessee’s abortion wait period law faces court arguments.

By Travis Loller, The Associated Press, September 20, 2019

Four years after Tennessee passed a law requiring a 48-hour waiting period for women seeking abortions, abortion clinics are getting a chance to argue against it in court.

Beginning Monday in federal court in Nashville, attorneys for five of the state’s seven abortion clinics will try to prove that the law harms the women it is supposed to help.

They must establish that the law, which requires women to make two separate trips to the abortion clinic, imposes an undue burden on Tennessee women. It’s a subjective standard that has caused some waiting period laws to be struck down and others upheld, depending on the specific circumstances of the state.

Twenty-seven states currently require a waiting period between counseling and an abortion, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research group that supports abortion rights. Tennessee is one of 14 states where pre-abortion counseling must take place in person, meaning a woman must make two separate trips to the clinic.


12. A California Court Dealt a Blow to Religious Liberty. It’s Time for SCOTUS to Act.

By David French, National Review Online, September 20, 2019, 2:07 PM

Yesterday, the California Court of Appeals issued a truly remarkable opinion in a truly remarkable case. It held that a Catholic hospital could indeed face legal liability for failing to perform a hysterectomy as part of a female-to-male “transition” — even though its policy broadly bans sterilization surgery generally (not just for trans individuals) and even though the hospital referred the patient to a non-Catholic facility in the same network. The patient obtained the hysterectomy a mere three days after the original scheduled surgery date and sued anyway.

The facts of the case are simple. The plaintiff, Evan Minton, initially scheduled a hysterectomy for August 30, 2016, at Mercy San Juan Medical Center (part of the Dignity Health hospital network) as a treatment for gender dysphoria. Mercy is a Catholic hospital, and the day before the scheduled surgery, Mercy canceled the procedure. It cited the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ “Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services.” As the court noted, “The Directives prohibit direct sterilization and require that bodily and functional integrity be protected and preserved.”

In other words, a Catholic hospital was upholding basic Catholic religious doctrine.

It’s time, this term, for SCOTUS to step up and draw a line in the sand. It should grant cert in Fulton and repair free-exercise jurisprudence. The state may encroach no farther on the constitutional liberty of  religious institutions.


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