Religious Liberty in Coronavirus Times & More -- Twenty-Two Things that Caught My Eye Today

A priest listens to a confession by a member of his congregation while practicing social distancing at the S.S. Sacramento church in Rome, Italy, March 26, 2020. (Remo Casilli/Reuters)

1. Turkish-backed groups loot contents of Mar Touma Church in Syria’s Sere Kaniye – North press agency

Turkish-backed groups loot contents of Mar Touma Church in Syria’s Sere Kaniye


2. Reported Ethiopia massacre: UN rights chief warns of spiraling situation, war crimes 

3. New England Journal of Medicine: Long-Term Care Policy after Covid-19 — Solving the Nursing Home Crisis

4. Diane Mattingly: My Sister, Lisa Montgomery, Took a Life. Her Own Was Scarred by Unimaginable Abuse. Spare Her

The threat of losing her children, combined with the years of untreated trauma and severe mental illness, pushed Lisa over the edge. In the haze of her mental illness, she went to the home of a pregnant woman, killed her, and removed the baby. Lisa then took the baby home and cared for her as though she was her own. The crime itself shows that Lisa had lost all touch with reality.

My heart goes out to the family of Bobbie Jo Stinnett and the loss that they have felt and are still feeling.

But my hope is President Trump will stop Lisa’s execution and commute her sentence to life in prison. She is not the “worst of the worst” for whom the death penalty was intended. She is the most broken of the broken.

5. The Washington Post: Apple is lobbying against a bill aimed at stopping forced labor in China

The Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act would require U.S. companies to guarantee they do not use imprisoned or coerced workers from the predominantly Muslim region of Xinjiang, where academic researchers estimate the Chinese government has placed more than 1 million people into internment camps. Apple is heavily dependent on Chinese manufacturing, and human rights reports have identified instances in which alleged forced Uighur labor has been used in Apple’s supply chain.

The staffers, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the talks with the company took place in private meetings, said Apple was one of many U.S. companies that oppose the bill as it’s written. They declined to disclose details on the specific provisions Apple was trying to knock down or change because they feared providing that knowledge would identify them to Apple. But they both characterized Apple’s effort as an attempt to water down the bill.

6. JD Flynn: I have two kids with Down syndrome. Here’s what I wish those considering abortion knew about life with them. 

The best estimates suggest that more than 70 percent of U.S. women with prenatal diagnoses of Down syndrome have abortions. Women report facing medical and family pressure to do so. But our children’s birth mothers took hard news, and they chose to bring vulnerable, inconvenient, unpredictable and challenging babies into the world. That was not easy.

When parenting their children did not seem like the right choice, they chose to make adoption plans for them. I cannot imagine a more difficult moment for a mother or a more poignant expression of selfless love. They are our heroes. They gave life to our children and made choices for them that came at great personal cost.

Few of us have had meaningful personal relationships with someone who has Down syndrome. I think that is part of why they are aborted in such alarming numbers: Their lives are unfamiliar to us and sometimes defined by limitations and impairments. We are afraid of what we do not know. And we are afraid of suffering: ours and theirs.

My wife and I are not pious or sentimental about our children’s lives. And we do not think facile stereotypes represent them well. They do suffer. Pia has had cancer twice and has come very close to death. Max has sensory issues that make textures and tastes and sounds sometimes a near insurmountable burden. Speech is a struggle for them. Reading and math take focused efforts. They want to be with and befriend their peers, and gradually, I fear, they are becoming aware of their limitations and aware that they are different.

7. New York Catholic Schools Get a COVID-19 Win in Court

Judge Rules in Favor of Catholic Schools in Case against New York City Department of Education


8. WSJ: Cuomo’s Pandemic Powers Might Be Tested in Supreme Court Case

Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio said in an interview that the limits were unfair because secular activities—like shopping at grocery stores—were deemed as essential and allowed to continue. The practice of religion is protected by the First Amendment, he said.

“If we were essential, you’d have to look at us differently—whether we were a grocery store or a pharmacy,” Bishop DiMarzio said. “We have been relegated with the bowling alleys.”

9. New York synagogues ask justices to lift attendance limits (updated)

10. 80 years ago, lethal Nazi T4 center began euthanizing Germans with disabilities

11. Religious-freedom advocates: Will new administration continue support?

Although there has been a resurgence of anti-Semitism in Europe, “there’s no escaping the fact that Christians are singled out in far more places,” said Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York.

Dolan said issues involving persecution of Christian communities in the Middle East, as well as India, “have all been part of this administration’s outreach when it’s been brought to their attention.”

He said that included Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who has given “a particular attention” given to Orthodox churches.

On Nov. 17, Pompeo, on a seven-country tour of Europe and the Middle East, met with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople in Turkey. In a tweet, Pompeo called the Orthodox leader “a key partner as we continue to champion religious freedom around the globe.”

12.  Archbishop Jose Gomez: Heroic Christianity in a pandemic

Throughout these months, I find myself returning to that extraordinary moment of prayer that Pope Francis conducted at St. Peter’s Basilica last March. We all remember the scene. The colonnade was empty and dark; the ancient cobblestones were wet with rain. The pope was alone before Our Lord Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament.

It was a powerful witness to his ministry as St. Peter’s successor and Christ’s vicar on earth. But I also felt that Pope Francis was speaking to us, as bishops. By his words and actions, he was confirming his brethren, strengthening us in our vocation as successors of the apostles.

Pope Francis often reminds us that as bishops, we are not only administrators. We are “shepherds in the footsteps of the Shepherd.” And I know we are all grateful for his fraternal encouragement.

13. Archbishop Charles J. Chaput: Answering the Psalmist

In What It Means to Be Human: The Case for the Body in Public Bioethics, Snead—a professor of law and director of the de Nicola Center for Ethics and Culture at the University of Notre Dame—notes that “public bioethics is fundamentally concerned with human vulnerability, dependence, frailty, and finitude.” Yet “current law [regarding] American public bioethics is grounded in a gravely incomplete and thus false vision of human identity and flourishing.” He goes on to argue that because of this flaw, our public bioethics “is unable to respond fully and coherently to the challenges intrinsic to the individual and shared lives of embodied beings [and their] natural limits.”

Our “false vision” of human identity stems from an expressive (and excessive) individualism that privileges personal autonomy, the individual will, and strong cognitive abilities. It undervalues the network of mutual obligation that constitutes real life. It thus subtly threatens anyone who is especially dependent on others: the disabled, the sick, the elderly, and most obviously the unborn child.

14. Nancy Flanders: Debunking 7 of the most common myths about adoption

Children who have been abused or neglected will have challenges to overcome, but they need loving and stable parents to help them achieve that. Some children in foster care have lost their parents and some have watched their parents deal with drug addiction. They have a lot on their minds and hearts. The best thing for these children is a safe and secure home with loving parents. If and when difficult behaviors arrive, social workers and therapists can help so that everyone in the family has the best chance at a happy, stable life.

15. Andrea Picciotti-Bayer: Americans should heed Justice Alito’s words on religious freedom

16. Helen Alvare in the National Catholic Register: If We Don’t Teach the Faith the Man in the Oval Office Will

17. Stephen P. White: John Paul II committed sins, too. Just like all the other saints.

This is what the McCarrick Report reveals about Pope John Paul II: He was deceived by Theodore McCarrick, a man who was a master of deception. A chance to halt the career of a wicked man was missed. The seeds were sown for a later, greater betrayal of victims and faithful alike. At the end of the day, culpability for the predations of Theodore McCarrick—and all that his sins wrought—belongs to Theodore McCarrick.

John Paul II was an imperfect man—a man who could be deceived. That an imperfect man has been declared a saint ought not surprise us in the least: It is true of every saint save one, Our Lady. There is a Pelagian streak in those who would denounce a saint on account of his weakness. It is God who makes saints by his grace—not by our strength of will, not even the wisdom of the church and certainly not the magnificence of one’s “legacy.”

18. Bishop Flores evangelizes on Twitter. Now he is in charge of doctrine for the U.S. bishops.

How do you keep your mind from being overwhelmed by what can sometimes be a rhetorical storm that makes you want to crawl up in bed and cover your head with your covers? There’s a way to help people think about this. It’s not easy, it’s very hard, but you have to pray and know what to say.

One of the things I’ve said very frequently is that we have to let the Christ of the Gospels, and the mind and the heart of the church in our experiences, be the lens by which we look at the world, not the other way around. That’s a constant battle we have as human beings, especially in a world so obsessed with the political as if it were a religion. So people were asking me about this, and I tried to keep it real.

19. ‘A simple priest of the Church’: Papal preacher prepares to be made a cardinal

20.  Resisting the New Religion of Identity

21. Fr. Paul Scalia: Christ or Chaos



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