1. In new D.C. archbishop, a middle-ground leader, A Catholic insider who’s open to change, he’s held high-profile roles before.

By Michelle Boorstein, Julie Zauzmer and Sarah Pulliam Bailey, The Washington Post, April 15, 2019, Pg. A1

When the first Catholic clergy sexual abuse crisis erupted in the early 2000s, Wilton Gregory led hundreds of defensive and divided bishops in passing the most aggressive action on abuse in U.S. church history.

With the Archdiocese of Washington since last summer the epicenter of the national crisis, Gregory, 71, once again steps in as the head of a church in turmoil. In what is arguably his most important American leadership pick so far, Pope Francis has chosen Gregory to replace Cardinal Donald Wuerl, who resigned six months ago because of complaints about his handling of abuse claims.

Unlike his predecessor in D.C., he is an extrovert and a big personality. And if tradition holds, as the new leader of the Washington Archdiocese he will become the nation’s first African American cardinal, eligible to vote for pope.


2. New Vatican constitution will resist centralization in Rome, drafter say.

By Inés San Martín, Crux, April 15, 2019

It took 29 meetings, but the pope’s “C-9” council of cardinal advisers, which is now functionally more akin to a “C-6”, has a new constitution for the Vatican in the form of a draft presentable to all the bishops’ conferences around the world, the heads of the various departments of the Holy See, theologians and canonists.

According to a principal drafter of that document, one core aim, reflecting the electoral mandate given Pope Francis six years ago, is to combat centralization of power in Rome.

Cardinal Oswald Gracias from Bombay, India, a member of the council, was responsible for drafting parts of Praedicate evangelium, which will now be reviewed by bishops around the world who have to send their thoughts in late May, before the council’s next meeting in June.

Gracias spoke with Crux last week at the end of a meeting of the prelates, and he said fighting “centralization” was a principal goal of the drafters. The issue was discussed by the cardinals who elected Jorge Mario Bergoglio to succeed Benedict XVI, “so Francis was elected on a mandate to do this,” Gracias said.


3. Benedict is one pope too many.

By David Von Drehle, The Washington Post, April 14, 2019, Pg. A19, Opinion

There was consternation among Vatican-watchers in 2013 when Pope Benedict XVI became the first pontiff in centuries to resign the papacy rather than die on the job. Would it not be confusing to have two men residing in Roman palaces to whom the Holy Spirit had entrusted the “claves regni caelorum” — the very keys to heaven? 

When the emeritus — or superfluous — pope steps in to offer a shield against the necessary accountability and humility, it’s clear the church has a problem. Two popes is one too many. 


4. Pope Francis blesses palm branches as he ushers in Holy Week.

By Frances D’Emilio, The Associated Press, April 14, 2019, 6:38 AM

Pope Francis warned against being judgmental and too full of oneself, including authorities in the Catholic church, in his Palm Sunday homily during Mass in St. Peter’s Square, which was crowded with tens of thousands of pilgrims, tourists and Romans.

The day ushers in Holy Week, which will include Way of the Cross processions around the world to commemorate the Passion, or suffering, of Jesus on Good Friday and his death by crucifixion.

 The pope cautioned against the temptation of “triumphalism,” which he said feeds itself by “looking askance at others and constantly judging them inferior, wanting, failures.”

Francis added that “one subtle form of triumphalism is spiritual worldliness, which represents the greatest danger, the most treacherous temptation threatening the church.” He recommended humility as a way to counter such temptations.


5. Bishop Asks Nicaraguans to ‘Fight for Freedom’ in Speech.

By The Associated Press, April 14, 2019

The auxiliary bishop of Nicaragua’s capital, a vocal critic of the government of President Daniel Ortega, urged Nicaraguans to “fight for freedom” Sunday, in a final message before being transferred to Rome at the request of Pope Francis.


6. Pope says Christians can’t fight the devil by becoming ‘superstars’.

By Inés San Martín, Crux, April 14, 2019

Opening the holiest period on the Christian calendar, Pope Francis on Palm Sunday spoke about the battle between God and the “prince of this world,” saying those who follow Jesus are called to fight temptation and evil with silence and humility, not by being “superstars.”

The pontiff said that just as Jesus was welcomed joyfully into Jerusalem, the devil had a “card up his sleeve: the card of triumphalism.”

“Yet the Lord responded by holding fast to his own way, the way of humility,” Francis said, before telling thousands gathered in St. Peter’s Square that they, too, are called to do the same.

Triumphalism, Francis said during his Palm Sunday homily, lives off gestures and words “that are not forged in the crucible of the cross,” growing off looks askance at others and by judging others as “inferior, wanting, failures.”


7. Juicy reminders of ‘be careful what you wish for, for you will surely get it’.

By John L. Allen Jr., Editor, Crux, April 14, 2019

Catholic life is almost always chock full of illustrations of the old wisdom, “Be careful what you wish for, for you will surely get it.” Even so, the last week gave us a couple of especially juicy cases in point.

One of those object lessons came in Peru, the other in Rome.

In Peru, Archbishop Jose Antonio Eguren Anselmi of Piura prevailed in his battle against journalist Pedro Salinas, seeing a local court convict Salinas of defamation and sentence him to a one-year suspended jail term and a fine of $24,000.

In Rome, meanwhile, Pope emeritus Benedict XVI stirred controversy this week with a lengthy essay on the clerical sexual abuse scandals published in an obscure Bavarian periodical for clergy. Mostly, what set tongues wagging was the retired pope’s suggestion that “homosexual cliques” in seminaries were part of the picture – which, to some, appeared to lend legitimacy to the prejudice that gays are somehow predisposed to be pedophiles.

Whether such a crackdown would be bad or good is a debate for another time, but the point is that it could happen, and the reform camp might rue the day it tossed that particular boomerang into the air.

If so, no one ought to profess surprise – after all, Benedict laid it out for us this week.


8. ‘Permanent Revolution’ and ‘Liberty in the Things of God’ Review: Rendering Unto Caesar.

By Barton Swaim, The Wall Street Journal, April 13, 2019, Pg. C6, Bookshelf

How did liberal democracy arise from illiberal soil? In other words, how did Europe in the 16th century, when religious adherence was enforced and heretics were persecuted, produce a world in which freedom of thought and religious affiliation are now guaranteed? Answers to this question fall into two broad categories. The more common one, since Herbert Butterfield’s “The Whig Interpretation of History” (1931), goes something like this: For a century and a half, Catholic traditionalists and Protestant reformers clung to premodern views of revelation and politics and assaulted each other over obscurantist doctrines; but then in the latter part of the 17th century statesmen of saner tendencies began steering Western nations toward greater toleration and openness. A second explanation, expressed forcefully in Alister McGrath’s “Christianity’s Dangerous Idea” (2007), suggests that liberal democracy is not a break from Christianity but, in important respects, a natural outgrowth of it.

In “Permanent Revolution: The Reformation and the Illiberal Roots of Liberalism,” James Simpson, a professor of English at Harvard, claims to offer a third answer. Mr. Simpson thinks the 16th-century reformation precipitated a reign of terror and paranoia so twisted and regressive that it provoked the creation of “self-stabilising mechanisms.”

Mr. Simpson’s argument doesn’t differ all that much from Butterfield’s interpretation, but the book has far worse problems.

The deeper problem is that Mr. Simpson is so profoundly out of sympathy with the Protestant figures he writes about that, for him, any adverse characterization of them will do.

 A less ambitious but far more cogent work is Robert Louis Wilken’s “Liberty in the Things of God: The Christian Origins of Religious Freedom.” Mr. Wilken, a professor emeritus of Christian history at the University of Virginia, contends that the principle of religious freedom—that is, that religious believers may worship as they wish—arose chiefly from Christian sources, not secular or skeptical ones. By religious freedom Mr. Wilken doesn’t mean the forbearance of repellent practices but “a natural right that belongs to all human beings.”

It was the early Christian writer Tertullian (155-240), building on the fact that Christianity is a religion of conscience and inward assent, who first articulated the principle of religious freedom.

Protestant reformers played a large role in developing religious freedom, but their Catholic adversaries contributed, too. Mr. Wilken relays the wonderful story of Caritas Pirckheimer, abbess of the sisters of St. Clare in Nuremberg, who in 1524 refused to obey city-council orders to make the convent more Protestant. The council “knew very well that we had always obeyed them before in all temporal things,” Pirckheimer recalled in her journal. “But what concerned our soul, we could follow nothing but our own conscience.” One of the convent’s sisters, possibly mimicking Martin Luther’s supposed statement three years before at the Diet of Worms, even pronounced, “Here I stand and will not yield.”


9. New Jersey law allows terminally ill to get life-ending meds.

By Mike Catalini, The Associated Press, April 12, 2019, 4:24 PM

Gov. Phil Murphy on Friday signed legislation making New Jersey the seventh state to enact a law permitting terminally ill patients to end their lives.

Murphy, a Democrat, signed the Medical Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill Act in private. His office would not answer why the signing was not public. The law goes into effect in August.

He earlier indicated he would support the bill, but in a personal statement, Murphy — a lifelong Catholic — revealed that he wrestled with whether to sign the legislation. The state’s Catholic Conference testified against the measure.

 Opponents, including the state’s Catholic Conference, say that the measure hurts the most vulnerable, and the state should instead work to improve its health care system.

“With the signing of this bill to legalize assisted suicide, many vulnerable New Jerseyans are now at risk of deadly harm through mistakes, coercion, and abuse,” said Matt Valliere, executive director of the Patients Rights Action Fund, an advocacy group opposed to such legislation.


10. Kermit Gosnell’s horrific crimes would be legal if Democrats get their way.

By Maureen Ferguson, Washington Examiner Online, April 12, 2019, 3:57 PM

The White House is catching flak for hosting a screening of the movie “Gosnell: The Trial of America’s Biggest Serial Killer,” that enjoyed a top-10 opening in the fall and features “Superman” actor Dean Cain. It’s a courtroom drama in the genre of “Law and Order” depicting the true story of Kermit Gosnell, who was convicted of murdering babies born alive during abortion procedures and on one manslaughter charge for his lethal mistreatment of one woman during an abortion procedure. The movie carefully avoids showing the viewer graphic or gory visuals, but rather, it focuses meticulously on the grand jury report and actual court transcripts.

Most people of goodwill seem to agree that Gosnell belongs behind bars. Yet, laws are being debated in state legislatures around the country and in Congress that would protect a future Gosnell from being prosecuted.

If his trial had taken place in New York in 2019, for example, rather than in Pennsylvania in 2013, the outcome would have been different. The abortion lobby is successfully legalizing many of the horrors Gosnell perpetrated against innocent babies.

Courtroom dramas concerning murder and manslaughter should serve as reminder to prevent mistakes of the past. Sadly, many political leaders today are devoted to the widespread legalization of these horrific practices. It seems the screening is timely.

Maureen Ferguson is a contributor to the Washington Examiner’s Beltway Confidential blog. She is a senior fellow for The Catholic Association.


11. Legislation for paid family leave gains support, but compromise needed.

By Dennis Sadowski, Catholic News Service, April 12, 2019

Polls of workers, surveys of employers and even informal conversations on Capitol Hill show strong support for a formal paid family leave policy. Getting there is a different story.

Three bills have been introduced in Congress in recent weeks: two similar Republican versions that allow new parents to access Social Security benefits after the birth or adoption of a child, and a more expansive Democratic proposal — around since 2011 — that would establish a small tax on employers and employees to fund leaves for childbirth and adoption, personal illness and caring for a sick family member.

Ashley McGuire, senior fellow at the Catholic Association and a member of the Bipartisan Policy Center advisory council on paid family leave, said she sees the Republican versions as a starting point. 

Meanwhile, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and Catholic Charities USA have not weighed in on the legislation. Spokesmen for both agencies said the bills are under review.


12. Washington Post files motion to dismiss Covington student’s lawsuit.

By Carol Zimmermann, Catholic News Service, April 12, 2019, 12:23 PM

Lawyers for The Washington Post filed a motion in federal court April 9 seeking the dismissal of the $250 million defamation lawsuit filed against the newspaper by Nick Sandmann, a student at Kentucky’s Covington Catholic High School.

The student was thrown into the center of a national spotlight in January when videos of him and his classmates interacting with Native Americans and others near Washington’s Lincoln Memorial went viral.

In the Feb. 19 lawsuit, the 16-year-old student alleged that the Post’s coverage of the incident was biased, claiming there were “no less than six false and defamatory articles” in the newspaper about the Jan. 18 encounter.

In its defense, in the motion filed in U.S. District Court in Covington, The Washington Post’s legal team said its stories of that day’s interaction were accurate and noted that even if they weren’t “flattering of the Covington Catholic students” who were involved, they “do not give rise to a defamation claim by Sandmann.”


13. The true ‘aid in dying’.

By Grazie Pozo Christie, Angelus News, April 11, 2019
Dr. Grazie Pozo Christie specializes in radiology in the Miami area and serves on the advisory board for The Catholic Association.

I’ve just come from the deathbed of my friend MaryEllen. It was only two weeks ago that she went to the oncologist full of hope, only to be told that her bladder cancer was inoperable, and that soon her kidneys would shut down.

Her doctor held her hand as she cried, and she told me that he brushed away tears of his own.  This amazed her, as she knew that dying patients are an oncologist’s bread and butter. She was deeply moved by his concern, and felt very sorry for him, even as she faced the certainty of her own approaching death. That’s the kind of generous woman MaryEllen is.  

Either way, helping a patient to hasten death violates the very essence of the nursing vocation and all its traditions, and is a false “compassion” — joyless and dreary.

It rips the covenant of the nursing profession with society into shreds, making a nurse the accomplice of despair, instead of the one who instills hope.   

The nurse who would “aid in dying” through suicide is the very opposite of the tender hospice nursing I’ve been privileged to witness, watching as Rita creates an atmosphere of calm and acceptance in the sickroom, filling it with the peace of God. 

MaryEllen is rapidly sinking, shrinking before my eyes as her organs shut down. I know that this is difficult for her, more difficult than I can begin to imagine, filled as I am with vigor and health.  Probably one day I will find myself in that same position, waiting for death to come and release me from my suffering. 

I hope that by then the nursing profession will not have been irretrievably harmed by those who would turn nurses into accomplices of suicide. I hope I am fortunate enough to have a nurse like Rita, who will soothe me like a tender mother and smooth my worried brow with warm hands.  

She and I will face death bravely. Together.