1. Some Scientists Warn on Editing Genes Before Birth.

By Amy Dockser Marcus, The Wall Street Journal, March 14, 2019, Pg. A2

An international group of researchers, including some inventors of the popular gene-editing tool Crispr, called for a world-wide moratorium on editing DNA in human sperm, eggs and embryos to prevent births of genetically modified babies.

The group of 18 scientists said in a paper published Wednesday in the journal Nature that a moratorium would prevent irresponsible use of the technology before it causes irreversible changes, especially after a researcher in China announced in November he produced the first genetically modified babies.

The reported births made it clear that “previous statements didn’t go far enough and they could go farther and now is the time to say so,” Eric Lander, one of the lead authors of the paper and president of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, said in an interview.


2. Diocese settles abuse case for $900,000.

By Associated Press, The Washington Post, March 14, 2019, Pg. A3

A Roman Catholic diocese in Connecticut has agreed to pay a former altar boy $900,000 to settle claims that he was sexually abused by a priest.

The lawsuit against the Diocese of Norwich was filed in 2016 by a man who said he was abused “hundreds of times” starting when he was 11 years old in 1990 and continuing for six years by Paul Hebert at Most Holy Trinity Church in Pomfret.

The Hartford Courant reported that the sides were supposed to pick a jury in January but the trial was postponed while further mediation took place.

The diocese said in a statement it hopes the settlement “brings closure to the parties involved.”


3. Scientists and NIH director call for a moratorium on gene-edited babies.

By Joel Achenbach, The Washington Post, March 14, 2019, Pg. A11

Scientists and ethicists from seven nations on Wednesday called for a moratorium on geneediting experiments designed to alter heritable traits in human babies. It’s the latest alarm sounded by researchers who have been both excited and unnerved by the powerful genetic engineering technique known as CRISPR, which can potentially prevent congenital diseases but also could lead to permanent changes in the human species and create a perverse market for enhanced, augmented offspring, sometimes called “designer babies.”

The call for the moratorium, published in the journal Nature, came in direct response to the actions of a Chinese researcher who, disregarding a global consensus on the ethical boundaries of gene editing, altered embryos that were implanted and carried to term, resulting in the live birth of twin babies. The Chinese researcher, He Jiankui, said his experiment was intended to alter a gene to make the babies resistant to infection with HIV. He said he knew he would receive criticism but defended it as an ethical form of gene therapy and not something akin to making cosmetic genetic alterations.        


4. Pell’s prison sentence greeted with praise, grief by friends and foes.

By Elise Harris, Crux, March 14, 2019

There’s no doubt that the conviction of Australian Cardinal George Pell for “historical sexual offenses,” meaning the abuse of two altar boys in the 1990s, and his subsequent 6-year prison sentence have been among the biggest blockbuster moments in recent Catholic news.

However, the day after Pell was sentenced – he maintains his innocence, and an appeal hearing is set for June 5-6 – voices from all quarters spoke out, some hailing the sentence as an important step forward in the fight against clerical abuse, others complaining it was too light, and still others insisting they just can’t buy a guilty verdict given the evidence presented.

Pell, the former archbishop of Melbourne and the former head of the Vatican’s Secretariat for the Economy, was sentenced Wednesday to six years in prison after he was found guilty in December of sexually abusing two 13-year-old boys in the 1990s. That verdict was only announced in late February, after an Australian judge lifted a strict suppression order.

Pell’s sentence marks the first time such a senior official in the Catholic Church has been convicted for the crime of sexual abuse of a minor, and it is also the first time a senior cleric will spend time behind bars for the crime.

Intense public interest in the case was illustrated by the fact that Pell’s sentencing hearing Wednesday morning in Melbourne was aired live by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.


5. Pope anniversary marked by Pell sentencing, scandal fallout.

By Nicole Winfield, The Associated Press, March 13, 2019, 11:18 AM

Pope Francis marked his sixth anniversary as pontiff in prayer Wednesday, attending a weeklong spiritual retreat with his closest advisers. Elsewhere in the world, one of his cardinals was sentenced for sex abuse and a new poll found American Catholics are increasingly questioning their faith because of the scandal.

In his time as pope, Francis has made it a tradition to bring the Vatican leadership with him on retreat at the start of Lent, the period of fasting and prayer leading up to Easter. This year, the spiritual exercises are being led by a Benedictine monk.

According to a report in The Catholic Herald, also attending the retreat outside Rome is an Argentine bishop close to Francis, Gustavo Zanchetta, who is currently under investigation for alleged sexual abuse. The Vatican press office said it had no comment on the report.


6. What Kind of Feminism, Empowerment, ‘Choice’ Is It to Push Legalization of Prostitution?

By Andrea Picciotti-Bayer, CNS News, March 13, 2019, 11:23 AM
Andrea Picciotti-Bayer is Legal Advisor for The Catholic Association Foundation.

A group of New York State lawmakers want to make prostitution legal in the Empire State.  Not to be out done by her “progressive” sisters and brothers, California U.S. Senator Kamala Harris has made prostitution decriminalization a platform plank in her campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination. When it comes to protecting vulnerable girls and women, these Democrats fall short – gravely short.

The New York state senators are pushing complete decriminalization.  As they recently explained, they hope to introduce a bill that will rewrite state laws on prostitution and erase a prostitute’s prior arrests from criminal records.  Their aim is to legitimize what they call the “consensual sexual exchange between adults.”  Harris, for her part, prefers a modified version of decriminalization known as the “Nordic Model” after Sweden’s 1999 sex-purchase ban.  This approach decriminalizes the person prostituted, but still makes buying people for sex a crime.  In the end, however, complete decriminalization and limited decriminalization make for a distinction without a difference.  Both denigrate women and their contributions to the world of work. 

Is this the best these New York state senators and Kamala Harris can do for poor, vulnerable American women?  Legalize their brute objectification at the hands of men? Turn mothers and daughters, sisters and friends into commodities – pieces of flesh – to be exploited in the marketplace? What kind of feminism, what kind of empowerment, what kind of “choice” is this? 


7. What Newman Can Tell Us About the Cardinal Pell Verdict.

By Fr. Geore W. Rutler, Crisis Magazine, March 14, 2019

The scene in the London courtroom in 1852 might have been out of a Gilbert and Sullivan operetta, with the defendant in simple clerical black standing in the dock before the bewigged representatives of ancient justice. 

 So the trial of Newman was about more than the slander of which he was accused. 

The Achilli Trial, as it came to be known, was one of the judicial dramas of the age. It would have had prime time on today’s television. It began on June 21 in 1852 and lasted five days. One thinks of what the sensitive personality of Newman, whose whole life was consecrated to the “Kindly Light” of truth and whose youthful and aged boast was that he had never sinned against it, endured during the trial. Yet, he was more than Stoic because he was not a pagan Greek bowing to the cruel fate, but was more luminously a son of serene truth. On the night of his conviction for libel against Achilli, secured after a neglectful Cardinal Wiseman had mislaid corroborative letters, he wrote unperturbed to a correspondent: “I could not help being amused at poor Coleridge’s prose…. I think he wished to impress me, I trust I behaved respectfully, but he must have seen that I was as perfectly unconcerned as if I had been in my own room. I have not been the but of slander for 20 years for nothing.”

Newman was found guilty by the Queen’s Bench and even The Times observed in the shocked aftermath: “We consider … that a great blow has been given to the administration of justice in this country, and Roman Catholics will have henceforth only too good reason for asserting, that there is no justice for them in cases tending to arouse the Protestant feelings of judges and juries.” In the annals of jurisprudence, the Achilli Trial helped to establish the bounds of the statutory defense of truth under the 1843 Libel Act.

It was a Pyrrhic victory for the Queen’s Court, and a moral victory for Newman, as he had to pay nominal fine of £100, while not having to be kept in custody.

Anti-Catholic hysteria, not unlike that which preceded Newman’s trial, animated charges against Cardinal Pell, indicting him for alleged profane acts witnessed by no one, and which would have seemed impossible under the circumstances. Etymologists have traced the term “kangaroo court” to makeshift jurisprudence in the United States at the hands of an Australian immigrant at the time of the 1849 gold rush, but Australia is the homeland of the marsupial. Cardinal Pell stood against politically correct policies such as contraception, abortion, the Gnostic revision of sexuality, and attempts to teach anthropogenic climate change theories as dogma. These are not welcome opinions in the courts of secular correctness.  He also began with unprecedented vigor, not typical in Rome, the task of cleaning the Augean stable of Vatican finances.

The situation now is different from 1852 because George Pell was accused and back then John Henry Newman was at first the accuser. But both subjects have claim to impeccable integrity, as victims of justice miscarried. In the nineteenth century, Gaetano Achilli fled with his ruined reputation to the United States, having abandoned an acknowledged wife and son, and threatening suicide after some time in a utopian “free love” community in Oneida, New York. His grave has no mark for his end is unknown; This year, by divine grace and mortal assent, Newman will be raised to the altars.

From a higher bar of consummate justice, Newman has the last word:

What is good, endures; what is evil, comes to naught. As time goes on, the memory will simply pass away from me of whatever has been done in the course of these proceedings, in hostility to me or in insult, whether on the part of those who invoked, or those who administered the law; but the intimate sense will never fade away, will possess me more and more, of the true and tender Providence which has always watched over me for good, and of the power of that religion which is not degenerate from its ancient glory, of zeal or God, and of compassion towards the oppressed.