John L. Allen Jr.: Verdict on first religious freedom report under Trump: Great rhetoric, what do we do?

(Crux) To say that Catholic leaders, both in the United States and Rome, have their issues on a variety of fronts with President Donald Trump would be to raise understatement to the level of art. Yet one area where, so far, there’s been a basic meeting of minds, at least rhetorically, is on the importance of promoting and defending religious freedom.

In part because of that, release of the first U.S. State Department International Freedom Report in the era of Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Tuesday aroused more-than-usual levels of curiosity, especially among people eager to see if there would be any dramatic departure or new direction.

In all honesty, such expectations were probably always overwrought: The State Department is a massive bureaucracy, one that doesn’t turn on a dime no matter who’s in the White House, and anyway, work on this report was all but wrapped up before the change in administrations.

“This is basically a State Department document,” Jesuit Father Thomas Reese, a member and former chair of the independent U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, told me on Tuesday.
“I’d be very surprised if there was any influence from the White House,” he said. [More]