1. In France, rebel priest takes on church bosses on sex abuse.

By John Leicester, Associated Press, September 6, 2018, 3:54 AM

When a lowly Roman Catholic father rebels against the church hierarchy, publicly castigating a prominent cardinal’s handling of child sex-abuse cases, is that an act of backstabbing against the institution he serves or a brave solo effort to help save it?

That is the debate provoked by the actions of a priest in France, with his remarkable step of petitioning the cardinal to resign. Judging from the sheaf of letters and cards that Rev. Pierre Vignon is clutching in his soft, plump hands, his uprising has divided churchgoers.

Vignon says he had family members in the resistance and that the region’s freedom-fighting history helped inspire his own decision to break ranks and call publicly for the resignation of Philippe Barbarin, archbishop of Lyon since 2002. Vignon faults the cardinal’s handling of a notorious alleged pedophile priest suspected of abusing Lyon boy scouts in the 1980s.

Barbarin and other church officials are due in court in January to answer victims’ charges that they were aware of the Lyon priest’s alleged history of abuse and didn’t alert authorities. Barbarin has denied any attempt to cover up the case and has been supported as “brave” by Pope Francis.

Francois Devaux, president of the “La Parole Liberee” (Lift the Burden of Silence) group, says Vignon took a risk in going public because he would have looked “a bit stupid” had his petition garnered few signatures.

He believes the success of Vignon’s petition could be a turning point in French church attitudes to abuse. After the petition surged past 100,000 signatures, Devaux got an unsolicited call that same evening from a “very, very worried” bishop asking “what can we do?” Devaux wouldn’t name the bishop.

“The church, or some people in the church, high up, are starting to realize how serious the situation is,” he said.


2. Texas Fetal Burial Law Struck Down in Another Blow to Abortion Restrictions.

By Manny Fernandez, The New York Times, September 6, 2018, Pg. A16

A federal judge on Wednesday struck down a Texas law that would have required abortion providers and other health care facilities to bury or cremate fetal remains, the latest in a series of legal setbacks for anti-abortion activists and state Republican leaders who pushed for the law.

The Texas Legislature passed the law in 2017. It would have required hospitals, abortion clinics and other providers to arrange for the burial or cremation of fetal remains, regardless of a patient’s personal wishes or religious beliefs, and regardless of whether the remains were from an abortion or miscarriage.

The Texas attorney general, Ken Paxton, whose office defended the law in court, said in a statement that the law was focused on preventing health care facilities from disposing of fetal remains in sewers or landfills. Mr. Paxton and other supporters of the law have cast it as an issue involving “the humane disposition of fetal remains.” Opponents have said it was designed to shame women seeking abortions and increase the obstacles, costs and bureaucracy facing abortion providers.

Mr. Paxton suggested that Texas will appeal Judge Ezra’s ruling.

“Today’s ruling is disappointing, but I remain confident the courts will ultimately uphold the Texas law, which honors the dignity of the unborn and prevents fetal remains from being treated as medical waste,” Mr. Paxton said in the statement.


3. Pro-life pregnancy centers served nearly 2 million people last year.

By Catholic News Agency, September 6, 2018, 12:27 AM

Pro-life pregnancy centers drew nearly 2 million clients in 2017 and provided more than $161 million in free services, according to a new report released this week.

“Pregnancy centers exist to serve and support mothers in the courageous decision to give their children life, even under the most difficult circumstances,” said Chuck Donovan, president of the Charles Lozier Institute. “This report calculates the impact of their mission of love in concrete terms.”

According to 2017 figures, pregnancy centers provided nearly 2 million people with free services, at an estimated annual savings to the community of $161 million. Free ultrasounds alone make up an estimated $100 million of those savings, not including the hours worked by registered nurse or medical sonographer hours, estimated at $14.1 million.

Over 70 percent of centers offer free ultrasounds, an increase from 24 percent in 2010. There are 100 mobile ultrasound units affiliated with the centers.

Last year, credentialed nurse sonographers and registered diagnostic medical sonographers volunteered over 400,000 hours of free services. In addition, over 67,000 volunteers, including 7,500 medical professionals, donated their time and skills to pregnancy centers.

The centers carried out close to 680,000 free pregnancy tests and provided close to 300,000 mothers and fathers with parenting classes.

Over 24,000 clients received support after an abortion, including counseling and referral to professional help when needed.


4. Kavanaugh hearing touches on abortion, religious liberty.

By Catholic News Agency, September 5, 2018, 5:27 PM

US Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh faced a range of questions on Wednesday, the second day of his confirmation hearings, including on abortion and religious freedom.

Kavanaugh affirmed Sept. 5 that Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey are “an important precedent of the Supreme Court,” and said that “being able to participate in the public square” with “religious speech” is “a part of the American tradition.”

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) asked Kavanaugh in the morning about women’s reproductive rights.

“As a general proposition, I understand the importance of the precedent set forth in Roe v. Wade,” Kavanaugh replied. “Roe v. Wade held, of course, and it was reaffirmed in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, that a woman has a constitutional right to obtain an abortion before viability, subject to reasonable regulation by the state, up to the point where that regulation constitutes an undue burden on the woman’s right to obtain an abortion.”

“In other countries around the world,” he said, “you’re not free to take your religion into the public square.” He cited crosses being knocked off of churches in mainland China, and that “you can only practice in your own home, you can’t practice, you can’t bring your religious belief into the public square. And being able to participate in the public square is a part of the American tradition. I think as a religious person, religious speech, religious ideas, religious thoughts, that’s important.”


5. Pope Francis will see a “changed Church” when he visits Baltic states.

By Claire Giangravè, Crux, September 6, 2018

Pope Francis’ upcoming trip to the Baltics in late September will focus on youth and encouraging the local church rather than relations with Russia and the sex abuse scandals that have been circling the Vatican this summer, according to a Lithuanian cleric.

“The government asked that the pope come give a word of encouragement especially for young people but also for the church so that it might give its contribution,” said Monsignor Visvaldas Kulbokas, counselor at the Vatican embassy to Russia during a press briefing in Rome Sep. 5.

After Francis’ August trip to Ireland, marred by scandals regarding the clerical sex abuse crisis involving high ranking Church members, including the pope himself, the upcoming Sep. 22-26 papal visit to Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia is geared to be an opportunity to bring the pope’s message home to the European peripheries.

The last time the Baltics welcomed a pope it was when now St. John Paul II visited the countries in 1993, packing fields and streets with faithful and curious onlookers. Francis’ visit will come at a time when Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia have witnessed profound changes as the Church faces challenges within itself.

This time around, Kulbokas said, the pope will be met with “less enthusiasm” and smaller crowds, since Mass participation has dropped in the three countries. Money will be a question, as made clear in an early August statement by Lithuanian Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis specifying that all expenses for the papal visit will be accounted to the public.


6. Church has key role in quest for Colombian reconciliation to keep peace.

By Barbara Fraser, Catholic News Service, September 5, 2018

A year after Pope Francis urged Colombians to build unity and a nation for all after more than half a century of conflict, the country’s Catholic Church continues to play a key role in the quest for reconciliation.

Dioceses throughout the country celebrated Peace Week Sept. 2-9. The event began 25 years ago to underscore the Church’s commitment to a negotiated solution to the long-running armed conflict between government security forces and armed guerrilla groups.

In addition, Church leaders participate in national councils for implementing the peace agreements signed nearly two years ago with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, the largest rebel group.

Implementation of the accords will take time, however, and events since the agreement was inked in November 2016 indicate how difficult the task is likely to be.

A slim majority of voters opposed the peace accords in a referendum held shortly after they were signed. President Ivan Duque, who has taken a harder line than his predecessor, has said he might make “adjustments” to the accords.


7. Laity must have role in fighting clericalism, Vatican official says.

By Junno Arocho Esteves, Crux, September 5, 2018

Clericalism has led to a distorted view of authority that has contributed to the problems of sexual abuse and the abuse of power and conscience affecting the Catholic Church, said the head of the Vatican’s clergy office.

Cardinal Beniamino Stella, prefect of the Congregation for Clergy, said the crisis facing the Church would not have been so grave if laity were more involved in the formation of current and future priests.

“Even the work of the dicastery attests that many situations in the lives of priests – generated by loneliness, tiredness and misunderstandings – would not have degenerated or would have been addressed in time if there had been listening, accompaniment and sharing by bishops and the entire Christian community,” Stella said Sept. 3 in Fatima, Portugal. The cardinal’s office gave the text to Catholic News Service Sept. 5.

Dedicating his talk to priestly ministry according to Pope Francis’s teachings, the cardinal said priests must be “permanent disciples of the Lord” who always are on guard against the temptation of “feeling accomplished.”


8. True rest is found in Christ – not escapism, pope says.

By Hannah Brockhaus, Catholic News Agency, September 5, 2018

The commandment to rest on Sundays is an invitation to be centered on Christ and to give praise and thanksgiving for the gift of life, not to waste the day in distraction, Pope Francis said Wednesday.

For us Christians, the center of the Lord’s Day, Sunday, is the Eucharist, which means ‘thanksgiving.’ It is the day to say to God: thank you, thank you, Lord; thank you for life, for your mercy, for all your gifts,” the pope said Sept. 5.

Continuing his general audience catechesis on the Ten Commandments, Francis spoke about Sunday as “the day of rest,” which he said Christians may think is a simple and straightforward concept but is not.

Today society has a distorted view of rest, he said, arguing that people only focus on what will be fun or what will bring them pleasure, and that the model of a successful person is someone who can afford many things, nice vacations, and to do whatever activities they please.

Francis said this kind of existence is “anesthetized,” however, filled with entertainment, alienation, and escape from reality – not true rest. “Man has never rested as much as today, yet man has never experienced as much emptiness as today!” he said.


9. At hearing, Kavanaugh highlights his Catholic Charities’ volunteer work.

By Kelly Sankowski, Catholic News Service, September 6, 2018

During the second day of his Supreme Court confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee Sept. 5, U.S. Appeals Court Judge Brett Kavanaugh said his experience serving the homeless with Catholic Charities and tutoring at Washington Jesuit Academy has influenced him as a judge because of the importance of “standing in the shoes of others.”

Kavanaugh noted that he regularly serves meals with Catholic Charities’ St. Maria’s Meals program in Washington and he said talking to the people whom they serve helps him to understand the situation that they are in.

“We are all God’s children. We are all equal,” he said. “People have gotten there because maybe they have a mental illness; maybe they had a terrible family situation; maybe they lost a job and had no family. But every person you serve a meal to is just as good as me or better.”

Kavanaugh noted Msgr. John Enzler, the president and CEO of Catholic Charities for the Archdiocese of Washington, as an important influence in his life who has helped him to think about others. He has known Enzler since Kavanaugh was 9 years old and an altar boy at Little Flower Parish in Bethesda. The priest was in the audience at the White House when President Donald Trump announced that Kavanaugh would be the next Supreme Court nominee July 9.

As another influence of his volunteering, Kavanaugh cited the Bible passage from Matthew 25, where Jesus said: “For I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited me in; naked, and you clothed me; I was sick, and you visited me; I was in prison, and you came to me.”

Kavanaugh said he “tries to follow the lesson of serving the least fortunate among us” as outlined in those six examples.

He also tutors at Washington Jesuit Academy in Washington, which is a tuition-free Catholic middle school where low-income students receive three meals and do their homework before returning home from school.


10. No other family should be put through our heartbreak: Charlie Gard’s parents fight for ‘Charlie’s Law’ that would allow parents of sick children to move them to a different hospital if they disagree with doctors.

By Sam Greenhill, The Daily Mail, September 5, 2018, 5:00 PM

A new law in memory of tragic baby Charlie Gard was laid before Parliament last night in a bid to spare other families courtroom clashes with doctors.

When Charlie died last year, his mother Connie Yates and father Chris Gard vowed their little boy would make a difference to the world. They have won the backing of prominent doctors and peers to change the law to give parents more rights over what happens to sick children.

They want parents to be allowed to move their children to a different, reputable hospital if they disagree with doctors. Last night Lord Mackay of Clashfern, who was lord chancellor under Margaret Thatcher and John Major, started the parliamentary process to usher in Charlie’s Law.

He tabled an amendment to the Mental Capacity Bill, which is being debated in the Lords. It could become law later this year unless ministers block it.

Charlie was born healthy in August 2016 but at two months he became ill with mitochondrial DNA depletion syndrome.

When Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital in London said there was no hope, his parents wanted to take him to America for treatment. The hospital opposed this move and, following lengthy court battles, Charlie died on July 28 last year after being taken off life support.

Charlie’s Law would compel hospitals to offer mediation with parents to resolve disputes before resorting to courts.

It would also force the Government to provide access to clinical ethics committees to advise doctors and parents on life and death decisions. And most crucially it would empower parents to seek treatment elsewhere. Lord Mackay’s amendment deals with the first two ideas, initially for adults only, and it is intended to add the third idea and extend all of it to children later.

The peer said: ‘Everyone agrees we need a solution to prolonged and distressing legal conflicts over medical treatment.

‘I am happy to have laid this amendment which seeks to prevent cases reaching court unnecessarily. This is a proportionate and long-overdue measure which I hope will be the first small step toward realising Charlie’s Law.’


11. Frustrated by Filth? Follow Jesus Christ Our Hope, and Trust in What He Says and Does.

By Fr. Roger Landry, National Catholic Register, September 4, 2018, 4:38 PM, Opinion

I would like to continue tackling some of the more frequent and important questions I’ve been hearing in some recent talks, comment boxes, social media posts, phone calls and emails.

Can I still trust the clergy? It’s clear that trust has been shattered for many Catholics by the actions and omissions of priests and bishops who have proven themselves untrustworthy.

Trust is a firm belief in someone else, that he’s reliable, honest, upright. It’s a positive “prejudice,” an act of faith in someone that he can be counted on to tell the truth, to keep his promises and commitments, and not to take advantage of you. Lack of trust is likewise a prejudgment that someone is probably dishonest, deceitful, unreliable, corrupt or even traitorous.

After the scandals of 2002 and 2018, many now treat priests and bishops with suspicion instead of trust, with doubt rather than the benefit of the doubt. It’s clearly part of the reparation priests and bishops today must do for the sins of their brothers.

Regaining trust will be the work of years. It will be achieved not by policies, procedures and protocols, but by men who prove themselves to be holy and trustworthy. The building blocks for rebuilding trust must be laid now through a transparent, candid, virtuous housecleaning, in which people can’t help but see that bishops and priests are following Christ rather than lawyers and are acting as men of God and outraged spiritual fathers rather than as public-relations men with collars.

To trust doesn’t mean to be naïve. St. Paul calls us to test everything and retain what is good (1 Thessalonians 5:21). This is another way of saying, “Trust but verify.” It’s to have a prejudice, a working presumption awaiting confirmation or refutation, that someone the Church believes has been called by God to be a priest, ordained and sent out is a man of God rather than a scoundrel. To have the opposite prejudice is to risk that one would end up rejecting those Christ has truly sent — and, as Jesus said, to reject such a person is to reject him and the Father who sent him (Luke 10:16).

How can I continue to hope? By focusing more on Christ, who is our hope (1 Timothy 1:1) than we do on the filth. There’s a temptation for many of us to spend more time on blogs and news articles chronicling the scandal than we do on the word of God and good spiritual reading. Christ is still present and active, and we can’t forget his resurrection because of the scandal of sins that led to his crucifixion.

One thing that helps me is Church history. For many years I was a guide to St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican, which was rebuilt between 1506 and1626 and ultimately served as an architectural and artistic response to the scandals of the Protestant Reformation. Within the massive pillars holding up interior of the rebuilt church are the saints who founded religious orders crucial in the Counter-Reformation. The Lord, likewise, wants us to become saintly pillars in the reconstruction of the Church today.

What can I do? People love the Church too much to sit on the sidelines doing nothing. They want to make sure their anger remains righteous rather than ruinous. The doctrine of the communion of saints teaches that every good action strengthens Christ’s Mystical Body, the Church, and every evil action weakens it. In response to decades of infidelity in doctrine and morals that have enfeebled the Church, all of us are called to help build the Church up by corresponding to what God is doing and wants to do through us.

This involves prayer, which is the first thing a Catholic ought always do in any situation: prayer for the victims, for those scandalized, for the leaders of the Church. It involves fasting, because some demons are only expunged through this prayer of the body (Matthew 17:21). It involves the help of God in the sacraments. It involves staying informed, without becoming obsessed, and helping where the talents and opportunities God provides us can be of service. It involves charity, beginning with reaching out to those who have suffered most, the victims of sexual abuse in the Church and their families, fighting on their behalf and accompanying them. It involves reaching out to those who are aching spiritually — family members, friends, fellow parishioners, priests and bishops, including those ailing in secret — in order to ask them how they’re doing and remind them of the reason for the hope that we bear within (1 Peter 3:15). There’s much for each of us to do, and every prayer or good deed is part of the rebuilding the Church desperately needs.

Many questions remain, on which I hope to focus in subsequent columns.