1. Trump Stands Up for Religious Freedom.

By Kelsey Zorzi, The Wall Street Journal, September 24, 2019, Pg. A15, Opinion

President Trump isn’t known as a champion of human rights, but on Monday he became the first American president to convene a meeting at the United Nations on religious freedom. He kicked off the U.N. General Assembly’s annual session with a “Global Call to Protect Religious Freedom.”

Mr. Trump’s call to action was the culmination of a series of advances on international religious freedom over the past two years. U.S. officials at the U.N. have repeatedly issued statements indicating that religious freedom is America’s top human-rights priority.

Mr. Trump has now made clear that he intends to engage the U.N. system where it has potential to make a positive impact on those suffering human-rights abuses, particularly abuses of the right to freedom of religion. As the president said, it’s an issue of “urgent moral duty” for all nations.

Ms. Zorzi is president of the U.N.’s NGO Committee on Freedom of Religion or Belief and director of advocacy for global religious freedom for ADF International.


2. Protecting Unborn Children Is No ‘Cosmic Question’

By Clarke D. Forsythe, The Wall Street Journal, September 24, 2019, Pg. A17, Opinion

Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg appeals to Scripture to defend his opposition to restrictions on abortion. “There’s a lot of parts of the Bible that talk about how life begins with breath,” he told a radio audience Sept. 5, adding that no matter what anyone thinks about “the kind of cosmic question of where life begins,” it ought to be up to “the woman making the decision.”

Mr. Buttigieg’s religious musings obscure that America’s legal tradition—going back to the English common law—has long protected unborn children to the greatest extent possible given existing medical understanding.

Rulings from as long ago as the 17th century show that English common law prohibited abortion at the earliest point that medicine could detect that a developing human was alive (the stethoscope wasn’t invented until 1816). English and American law subsequently prohibited abortion at earlier points during pregnancy, as medical understanding and technology allowed.

Today, several states protect unborn children in laws regarding legal guardianship and inheritance of property. Thirty-seven of them have criminal statutes that treat the killing of an unborn child as a homicide when done by means other than abortion. California’s statute protects unborn children after as few as eight weeks of gestation. Thirty states do so from conception.

Why speculate about “when life begins” when state law is so much more revealing about where the American people and their elected representatives stand in 2019?

Mr. Forsythe is senior counsel of Americans United for Life.


3. Is legalized euthanasia inevitable?

By Charles Lane, The Washington Post, September 24, 2019, Pg. A25, Opinion

Physician-assisted death — euthanasia — is lawful in three European countries, as well as Colombia and Canada. It is illegal, still, in the United States, though physicians in 10 states may supply lethal doses to terminally ill patients for self-administration. And the U.S. ban may not last forever: 72 percent of Americans support euthanasia, according to a May 2018 Gallup poll.

For the sake of an undeniably worthy goal, ending avoidable suffering, euthanasia places great confidence and trust in fallible human beings: patients who request it; doctors who carry it out; and institutions, legal and professional, that regulate it.

Anyone confident about how this will work in practice should review a Dutch court’s Sept. 11 not-guilty verdict in the Netherlands’ first-ever murder case against a physician accused of violating the country’s euthanasia laws.

Dutch prosecutors acknowledged that their goal was not so much to punish a wayward physician as to clear up a murky area of the euthanasia law: specifically, whether it imposes on doctors a legal duty to verify the current desire for life or death of a dementia patient.

By acquitting the doctor — who, like the patient, is not named in court documents — the Dutch court, in effect, answered “not necessarily.” Physicians may rely on advance directives, even, the ruling implies, a directive as ambiguously worded as this one was, without fear of legal liability. (Though they might receive admonitions from professional and administrative bodies, as this doctor did.)

It’s a remarkable holding. As U.S. bioethicist Scott Kim has argued, there were, in effect, two patients in this case: the person who once expressed a desire for euthanasia, and the very different one who was so sick that she could not express those wishes, or any others, years later, but was still alive, talking, walking, able to feel pain.

Seemingly, it can be permissible to take steps (such as physical restraint or undisclosed sedation) that alter “behavior and utterances that may indicate resistance or objections to termination of life.”

Critics of euthanasia often warn the practice is a slippery slope. This Dutch case suggests it’s more like Pandora’s box.


4. Pro-life advocates fear rulings may reverse gains, Georgia, Tennessee abortion laws scrutinized.

By Christopher Vondracek, The Washington Times, September 24, 2019, Pg. A6

Attorneys representing two Southern states with restrictive abortion laws faced federal judges on Monday in court cases that could reverse recent gains made by pro-life advocates.

In Georgia, lawyers representing the state argued before U.S. District Judge Steve Jones in Atlanta that Georgia’s ban on abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be detected should be allowed to take effect while a legal challenge is pending.

Fetal heartbeats can be detected as early as six weeks of pregnancy, before many people even know they’re pregnant.


5. Author argues identity politics has roots in the sexual revolution.

By Charles C. Camosy, Crux, September 24, 2019

[Editor’s Note: Mary Eberstadt is Senior Research Fellow at the Faith & Reason Institute. Between 1985 and 1987, she was a member of the State Department’s Policy Planning Staff and was a speechwriter for Secretary of State George P. Schultz. Her latest book is Primal Screams: How the Sexual Revolution Created Identity Politics. She spoke to Charles Camosy.]

Camosy: What motivated you to write a book about the source of identity politics? What do you hope to come from such a book?

For several years, following the discussion over identity politics, I kept feeling as if something were missing.

Conservatives and traditionalists tend to write off identity politics as the expression of “snowflakes,” or overly coddled youngsters. Liberals and progressives tend to embrace such politics as a way of attaining power.

In listening to the various manifestations of identity politics, I was struck by something else: Suffering. Rage. Despair. Watching footage of demonstrations by identity-first groups on campus, say, or reading the movement’s characteristically furious prose, I was impressed by how rancorous this phenomenon is – and how sad.

A lot of people today really seem frantic to know who they are, frantic to attach themselves to collective and exclusive political groups based on shared characteristics like ethnicity or erotic longings – as opposed to universally shared humanity. That is a remarkable fact, and a remarkably moving one.

How can the Church best react to the important story you’ve told in this book? Can we help push the culture toward a different future?

The Church is the most critical sign of contradiction in the world – including and especially about these exact issues. The empirical record since the 1960s shows that the simultaneous and related breakdowns of family and community have generated massive human suffering of different kinds, particularly among the most vulnerable. That record has been part of my work now through several books, including How the West Really Lost God and Adam and Eve after the Pill, in addition to Primal Screams.

That ledger is inadvertent but profound testimony to the truth of Catholic teachings about human nature. Those teachings go all the way back to the earliest of days, when new and stricter rules served both to set Christians apart from pagans, and helped them to construct a tight and enduring community. The Church can’t afford mixed signals about those teachings, especially when so many people are suffering because attempts to throw out the rulebook have left so many post-1960s souls atomized and unprotected.


6. Indian prelate urges dialogue with Hindus over ‘forced conversion’

By John L. Allen Jr., Editor, Crux, September 24, 2019

For almost a decade under St. John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI, then-Monsignor Felix Machado was a primary architect of the Vatican’s inter-religious outreach, including putting together a star-studded 2002 summit of religious leaders in Assisi as a follow-up to John Paul’s historic, and deeply controversial, first such gathering in 1986.

Machado, born in Vasai, India, outside what was then Bombay, served as under-secretary of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue from 1999 to 2008. There he worked shoulder to shoulder with Michael Fitzgerald, the British prelate whose own passion for inter-faith dialogue will be rewarded Oct. 5 when Pope Francis inducts him into the College of Cardinals.

Together Fitzgerald and Machado designed that 2002 event, which featured rabbis, muftis, shamans and sages all hopping aboard a rarely-used Vatican train – quickly dubbed the “Peace Train” by the media, in a belated tribute to Cat Stevens – for a quick ride to Assisi to talk, reflect and “pray in the same space,” if not quite “together.”

Given that background, it’s probably not surprising what answer Machado, now the Archbishop of Vasai, gives to rising tensions in India today over accusations that Christians engage in forced conversions of Hindu natives.

“Dialogue,” Machado said. “We have to dialogue with these people.”


7. Vatican suspends archbishop’s order against Indiana school.

The Associated Press, September 23, 2019

A Jesuit-run high school that refused to fire a teacher in a same-sex marriage will be allowed to resume all-school Masses while it appeals its status as a Catholic school.

The leader of Brabeuf Jesuit Preparatory School in Indianapolis announced Monday that the Vatican had temporarily suspended Archbishop Charles Thompson’s decree withdrawing Brebeuf’s Catholic recognition.

Brebeuf President Rev. Bill Verbryke says the suspension will allow it to hold Masses while the school’s appeal is considered. The archdiocese says the temporary suspension is common practice and does not affect the outcome of the appeal.


8. Trump at UN: ‘11 Christians are Killed Every Day for Following the Teachings of Christ’, President Donald Trump announced Monday that his administration would form “a coalition of U.S. businesses for the protection of religious freedom.”

By Joan Desmond, National Catholic Register, September 23, 2019

President Donald Trump defended religious freedom around the world today during a groundbreaking speech before the General Assembly of the United Nations.

The president pledged that his administration would spend an “additional $25 million to protect religious freedom and religious sites and relics,” in the wake of stepped-up attacks both in the U.S. and abroad, where the Islamic State militants targeted major religious landmarks in Iraq and Syria. Read full text here.

Of equal importance, the president also made clear that the “first freedom” needs shoring up in the United States.

As the U.S. Supreme Court prepares to hear oral arguments Oct. 8 in three high profile LGBTQ cases that could strengthen workplace protections for same-sex attracted and transgender employees — 200 amicus briefs were filed by major corporations, which urged the justices to decide in favor of the employee.

Trump announced that his administration would form “a coalition of U.S. businesses for the protection of religious freedom.”

“This is the first time this has been done. This initiative will encourage the private sector to protect people of all faiths in the workplace,” Trump told the U.N. General Assembly.

Reacting to Trump’s U.N. address, Bill Donohue of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights said the president’s decision to bring U.S. corporations together on this pivotal issue was critical, and “a huge improvement over the Obama years when religious liberty was privatized to mean freedom to worship.”


9. Commitment to fighting climate change still weak, pope says.

By Junno Arocho Esteves, Catholic News Service, September 23, 2019, 11:21 AM

The international community must ramp up its efforts if it expects to mitigate the negative effects of climate change, Pope Francis said.

In a video message sent Sept. 23 to participants at the U.N. Climate Action Summit in New York, the pope said that while the 2015 Paris climate agreement raised awareness and the “need for a collective response,” the commitments made by countries “are still very weak and are far from achieving the objectives set.”

“It is necessary,” he said, “to ask whether there is a real political will to allocate greater human, financial and technological resources to mitigate the negative effects of climate change and to help the poorest and most vulnerable populations, who suffer the most.”

According to its website, the goal of the U.N. Climate Action Summit is to “ensure the global focus on climate gains momentum” as well as to make sure that “there is scrutiny on the investments countries are making in fossil fuels vs. renewables.”

Calling climate change “one of the most serious and worrying phenomena of our time,” the pope said that states have a duty to fight against it and that despite the weak response, a “window of opportunity is still open.”


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