I received this item today in my email from an organization I follow closely and with great interest, THE BECKET FUND FOR RELIGIOUS LIBERTY:

The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty will file a lawsuit today in federal district court in Wichita Falls, Texas, on behalf of Franciscan Alliance, a religious hospital network sponsored by the Sisters of St. Francis of Perpetual Adoration, and the Christian Medical & Dental Associations, defending them from the new government regulation. The States of Texas, Kansas, Kentucky, Nebraska, and Wisconsin also joined the Becket Fund’s legal challenge. More information can be found at


Government orders doctors to perform procedures it admits may harm children

Washington, D.C. – Doctors, hospitals and five states will file a lawsuit today against a new federal regulation that would force doctors to ignore science and their medical judgment and perform gender transition procedures on children. The government does not even require Medicare and Medicaid to cover these same gender transition procedures because the Health & Human Services’ (HHS) medical experts found the risks were often too high and benefits too unclear. But any doctor citing the same evidence and their judgment in an individual case would be in violation of the new mandate and face potential lawsuits or job loss.

“No doctor should be forced to perform a procedure that he or she believes will harm a child,” said Lori Windham, senior counsel of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. “Decisions on a child’s medical treatment should be between families and their doctors, not dictated by politicians and government bureaucrats.”

A new  website provides leading research on this issue, including guidance the government itself relies on demonstrating that up to 94 percent of children with gender dysphoria (77 to 94 percent in one set of studies and 73 to 88 percent in another) will grow out of their dysphoria naturally and will not need surgery or lifelong hormone regimens. Studies also show that there are numerous negative effects when children undergo hormone regimens, such as increased risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and breast, ovarian, and prostate cancer.

The government itself does not require coverage of gender transition procedures in Medicare or Medicaid — even in adults — because it has acknowledged that such procedures can be harmful. This rule would be the first time a law forces doctors to break their Hippocratic Oath and is also unique in placing mental health professionals as the final decision-makers on what medical care doctors must provide for their patients.

The new regulation applies to 900,000 doctors — virtually every doctor in the U.S., many of whom have chosen the medical profession because they are inspired by their faith to serve those in need and to heal others. They have taken an oath to put the needs of each patient first and do no harm. But this regulation violates doctors’ ability to exercise both their best medical judgment and their religiously-inspired desire to care for society’s most vulnerable. It will also cost healthcare providers and taxpayers nearly $1 billion.

“This regulation is blatantly hypocritical: The government exempts coverage of gender transition procedures from Medicare or Medicaid because it admits that they may be harmful; but it then tries to force private doctors to perform the same procedures on young children,” said Windham.

NOTE A: I received the Becket Fund email just moments after reading the article in this link:

The article is entitled, “Nearly Everything the Media Tell You About Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Is Wrong”

It starts: A major new report, published today in the journal The New Atlantis, challenges the leading narratives that the media has pushed regarding sexual orientation and gender identity.

Co-authored by two of the nation’s leading scholars on mental health and sexuality, the 143-page report discusses over 200 peer-reviewed studies in the biological, psychological, and social sciences, painstakingly documenting what scientific research shows and does not show about sexuality and gender.

The major takeaway, as the editor of the journal explains, is that “some of the most frequently heard claims about sexuality and gender are not supported by scientific evidence.”

NOTE B: is not to be confused with Catholic News Service, the news arm of the USCCB, but rather is a politically conservative American news and commentary website founded by L. Brent Bozell III and owned by Media Research Center, Bozell’s Reston, Virginia-based organization (formerly known as Cybercast News Service).



Court asks both sides for alternatives to current government scheme

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Less than a week after it heard the case of the Little Sisters of the Poor, the U.S. Supreme Court took the unusual step of asking for additional information, telling both sides to discuss alternative ways to avoid forcing religious women to provide services against their faith.

“This is an excellent development. Clearly the Supreme Court understood the Sisters’ concern that the government’s current scheme forces them to violate their religion,” said Mark Rienzi, lead attorney for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. “We look forward to offering alternatives that protect the Little Sisters’ religious liberty while allowing the government to meet its stated goals.”

Becket Fund

The Little Sisters of the Poor, a 175-year-old religious order of women who serve the elderly poor, have asked the Supreme Court for protection from a government mandate that already exempts 1 in 3 Americans, large corporations like Chevron, Exxon, and Pepsi, and the U.S. military. The High Court must decide whether the government can force the Little Sisters of the Poor to comply with this mandate and provide services that violate their faith, even though these same services could easily be offered through the government exchanges.


The Supreme Court today asked both the government and the Little Sisters of the Poor to file additional briefs by next month.

Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court heard the case of the Little Sisters of the Poor and other religious ministries. (Transcript available here). A decision is expected in June.



A FRIDAY PAPAL TWEET: War is the mother of all poverty, a vast predator of lives and souls.


The Holy Father’s universal prayer intention for September is: “That opportunities for education and employment may increase for all young people.”

His intention for mission work and evangelization is: “That catechists may give witness by living in a way consistent with the faith they proclaim.”


There is a direct link between my vacation and my guest this week on the interview segment of Vatican Insider. Because of a very serendipitous meeting with an astronomer seated next to me on my flight from Los Angeles to Honolulu, I discovered that the IAU – International Astronomical Union –was holding its general assembly in Honolulu and I imagined that the Vatican, a very respected authority in this field, would be present.



That was indeed the case and I met up with Jesuit Father Christopher Corbally in the Hawaii Convention Center in week two of the IAU meeting. Fr. Corbally is an astronomer with the Vatican Observatory Research Group in Tucson, home to the famous VATT, Vatican Advanced Technology Telescope. Among other things, he is a member of the Royal Astronomical Society, the American Astronomical Society, and a member of the Institute on Religion in an Age of Science.

20150812_044522 20150812_044720

I had to do a crash course about the IAU before we met at the convention center, and hopefully made sense with my questions and his answers. So join us this weekend as we talk planets and stars and galaxies!

 20150812_045340 20150812_043648 20150812_043342

As you know, in the United States, you can listen to Vatican Insider on a Catholic radio station near you (there is a list of U.S. stations at or on Sirius-XM satellite radio. If you live outside the U.S., you can listen to EWTN radio on our website home page by clicking on the right side where you see “LISTEN TO EWTN.” Vatican Insider airs Saturday mornings at 9:30 am (Eastern time) and re-airs Sundays at 4:30 pm (ET). Check for your time zone. Past shows are found in Vatican Insider archives:


Here’s another riveting Francis moment!

Vatican Radio reported on Pope Francis’ visit Thursday afternoon to a Roman optician when he surprised a crowd of both locals and tourists as he stepped out of his Ford Focus on Rome’s tony Via del Babuino, not far from the ultra fashionable Spanihs Steps in the heart of Rome. The Pope was at the store to get his lenses for his glasses.

“I don’t want to change the frames,” he told the owner of the shop. “Just new lenses.”

Alessandro Spiezia, the owner of the optical shop, told The Associated Press he was supposed to go the Vatican on Wednesday, but the Pope’s secretary informed him Pope Francis wanted to instead go to his shop. Spiezia made the original pair of glasses for the Holy Father last year.

Pope Francis was in the shop for about 40 minutes, accoring to Vatican Radio, because Spiezia also gave him an eye exam.  While this was going on, a large crowd started gathering outside the shop to look at the Pope.

At the end of the encounter, Pope Francis made sure to settle his bill, saying “Please, Alessandro, let me pay what is owed.” He then got into his car, accompanied by a driver, and returned to the Vatican.


I got the following email today from the Becket Fund For Religious Liberty. It was entitled “Federal Judges Criticize Ruling Against Little Sisters of the Poor“Predict that “clearly and gravely wrong” decision “will not long survive” 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – In an almost unprecedented move, five federal judges issued an opinion sharply criticizing their court’s refusal to correct its recent decision that would force the Little Sisters of the Poor to assist the federal government with its contraception distribution scheme.

The opinion calls the decision against the Little Sisters “clearly and gravely wrong—on an issue that has little to do with contraception and a great deal to do with religious liberty.” The five judges criticized the decision of their colleagues for refusing to accept the Little Sisters’ sincere beliefs, warning that, “it is not the job of the judiciary to tell people what their religious beliefs are.”

“Yesterday’s opinion offers important support to the Little Sisters’ request that the Supreme Court hear their case,” said Mark Rienzi, Senior Counsel at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty and lead counsel for the Little Sisters of the Poor. “These judges understand that courts and bureaucrats should not be telling nuns what the Catholic faith requires.”

After a divided three-judge panel ruled against them, the Little Sisters promptly petitioned the Supreme Court to hear their case. Although the Little Sisters had not asked the entire Tenth Circuit to reconsider the panel’s opinion, the Tenth Circuit conducted a vote on its own initiative to determine whether the entire court should re-hear the case. When the court declined, the five judges issued their opinion explaining why the Little Sisters deserve protection (See video).

The opinion further criticizes the decision against the Little Sisters as reflecting a “dangerous approach to religious liberty.” The opinion noted that the reasoning of the court could be used to second-guess the religious beliefs of any faith, including religious minorities like Jews requesting a kosher diet.

But knowing that the Little Sisters and other religious ministries have already asked the Supreme Court to intervene, the five judges explained: “Fortunately, the doctrine of the panel majority will not long survive. It is contrary to all precedent concerning the free exercise of religion.”

The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty and a legal team including former Solicitor General and leading Supreme Court advocate Paul Clement filed the cert petition on behalf of the Little Sisters, their health benefits provider Christian Brothers, and the Baptist ministries GuideStone, Reaching Souls, and Truett-McConnell College.


POPE FRANCIS’ TWEET FOR THE DAY: The one who helps the sick and needy touches the flesh of Christ, alive and present in our midst.


This just in from the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty:

Forced to choose faith or massive fines, nuns seek relief

JULY 23, 2015 – WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, for the second time in two years, the Little Sisters of the Poor must ask the Supreme Court to protect them from the government. The order of Catholic nuns and other non-profits have been forced to ask the Court for relief to the government’s refusal to exempt them from a regulation that makes them choose between their faith—which prohibits them from providing contraceptives—and continuing to pursue their religious mission of serving the elderly poor.


“The government has lost every single time they have made these arguments before the Supreme Court—including last year’s landmark Hobby Lobby case. One would think they would get the message and stop pressuring the Sisters,” said Mark Rienzi, Senior Counsel of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty and lead attorney for the Little Sisters of the Poor. “The government is willing to exempt big companies like Exxon, Chevron, and Pepsi Bottling, but it won’t leave the Little Sisters alone.”

The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty and leading Supreme Court advocate Paul Clement—the same legal team that won Hobby Lobby—filed the petition on behalf of the Little Sisters as well as the Christian Brothers Employee Benefit Trust, Christian Brothers Services, Reaching Souls International, Truett-McConnell College, and GuideStone Financial Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention. They are seeking relief from a 100-page decision by the Tenth Circuit that disagrees with the ministries’ understanding of moral theology. Today’s petition is the fifth the Court has received and makes it likely the Court will decide in the upcoming term whether religious ministries, like religious for-profits, will receive protection from the Mandate.

“The Sisters consider it immoral to help the government distribute these drugs. But instead of simply exempting them, the government insists that it can take over their ministry’s employee healthcare to distribute these drugs to their employees, while dismissing the Sisters’ moral objections as irrelevant,” said Rienzi. “In America, judges and government bureaucrats have no authority to tell the Little Sisters what is moral or immoral. And the government can distribute its drugs without nuns—it has its own healthcare exchanges that can provide whatever it wants.”

“As Little Sisters of the Poor we dedicate our lives to serving the neediest in society, with love and dignity. We perform this loving ministry because of our faith and simply cannot choose between our care for the elderly poor and our faith, and we shouldn’t have to,” said Sr. Loraine Marie Maguire, Mother Provincial of the Little Sisters of the Poor. “We hope the Supreme Court will hear our case and ensure that people from diverse faiths can freely follow God’s calling in their lives.” For more, click here:


Archbishop Georg Gaenswein, private secretary to Pope emeritus Benedict XVI and Prefect of the Papal Household for Pope Francis talks about the two Popes in a wide-ranging interiew done by Zenit. He is asked how he manages collaborating with two Popes, about the different personalities of each pontiff, about Benedict’s election and his reaction and then, eight years later, his resignation. He also talks about the problems the Church in Germany is experiencing.


The archbishop also talks about the upcoming October Synod, saying it “must begin not from a particular problem, but from the main topic and that is, from ‘the evangelization of the family’. Clearly the Church doesn’t close her eyes in face of the difficulties of faithful living in difficult situations. However, the Church must give sincere answers that are oriented, not to the spirit of the times, but to the Gospel, to the Word of Jesus Christ and to the Catholic Tradition.”

Click here to read the entire interview: