Donald Trump became the first United States President to speak at the annual Right to Life March in the nation’s capital since abortion was legalized in 1973. “Unborn children have never had a stronger defender in the White House,” Trump told the crowd who packed the National Mall to hear him speak. He then turned the event into a campaign rally, attacking Democrats for supporting infanticide. Trump’s wooing of anti-abortion voters is in stark contrast to his public comments in 1999 when he described himself on Meet the Press as “pro-choice in every respect”. Estimates of attendance at the 2020 rally range up to 100,000.
United Methodist Church leaders gathered in Nashville, headquarters of their denomination, to prepare for the General Conference in Minnesota later this year. They sang, prayed, listened, celebrated communion, and talked about the upcoming Conference. The event drew participants from the broad range of theological convictions in the church, widely considered on the verge of splitting or splintering over the issue of homosexuality. Last year, the annual Conference voted to restrict opportunities for homosexuals and limit what bishops could do (marry, ordain, etc). But pushback by UMC people across the country has proved strong and prompted a group to propose, late last year, a peaceful way for congregations and conferences to go their separate ways and retain ownership of the property they use.
Cleveland Bishop Nelson Perez has been appointed by the Vatican as the new archbishop in Philadelphia. Perez is Hispanic and continues the effort of Pope Francis to diversify the leadership of the Roman Catholic Church worldwide. Francis himself is from Argentina. Perez is from Philadelphia, attended seminary in Philadelphia, and served a number of Philadelphia parishes before moving first to Rockville Centre, New York, and then in 2017, to Cleveland. Perez will replace retiring Charles Chaput, one of the more conservative Catholic leaders in the United States and a frequent critic of Pope Francis. Chaput is 75, the mandatory retirement age, and Perez is 57.
Since 2010, the Supreme Court has been known as the Catholic Court. It inaugurated a period when no member of the Court was Protestant (who had long dominated the Court). Then and now, five Roman Catholics serve of the Court: today’s five are Roberts, Sotomayor, Kavanaugh, Alito, and Thomas. In addition, Gorsuch was raised Catholic. All these, plus the other three—all of Jewish heritage—were appointed by Protestant presidents (Bush, Bush, Clinton, Obama, and Trump). Several issues before the Court this session have the potential to reflect changing personnel on the Court, including public funding of private schools, abortion, and the role of government. The Court, the Catholic Court, is poised to make history.
Roman Catholics around the world and throughout the United States initiated a new annual celebration of the Bible, prompted by the word of Pope Francis last fall. Speaking in Rome on what is now known as Sunday of the Word of God, Francis said, “Each day, let us read a verse or two of the Bible. Let us begin with the Gospels. Let us keep it open on our table, carry it in our pocket, read it in on our cell phones, and allow it to inspire us daily.” Scott Woods, a priest in Ohio, described the new emphasis: “Each diocese and parish celebrated differently. Some had Bible studies, some distributed Bibles.” He is offering a new Lectio Divina after some weekday masses.