1. Trial of Child-Pornography Suspect Would Be a First for the Vatican: The Vatican has arrested one of its former diplomats on suspicion of violating child-pornography laws. 

By Francis X. Rocca, The Wall Street Journal, April 9, 2018, Pg. A10

The Vatican’s arrest of one of its diplomats on suspicion of violating child-pornography laws has set the stage for the first trial for that crime in Vatican City—an event likely to be closely watched as a sign of Pope Francis ’ commitment to combating clerical sex abuse.

“Let us hope there is a trial soon and it is transparent,” Marie Collins, a former member of the pope’s advisory panel on child protection, tweeted Sunday. “The possession of child-abuse images is a serious crime.”

The Vatican said in a statement Saturday that its police force, known as the gendarmerie, had arrested Italian Msgr. Carlo Alberto Capella that morning under a Vatican law setting penalties for anyone who “distributes, disseminates, transmits, imports, exports, offers or sells child pornography.”

Msgr. Capella was being held in a cell in the gendarmerie’s barracks, the statement said. He had been under house arrest in the Vatican, according to a person familiar with the matter. Attempts to reach him on Sunday were unsuccessful.

His arrest came more than six months after the Vatican recalled the then-unidentified diplomat from its embassy in Washington, after the U.S. State Department notified it about his “possible violation of laws relating to child-pornography images.”


2. Among the Abortion Extremists. 

By Ross Douthat, Opinion Columnist, The New York Times, April 8, 2018, Pg. SR9

A few weeks ago, The Washington Post’s deputy editorial page editor, Ruth Marcus, wrote two columns explaining why, had either of her children been diagnosed with Down syndrome in utero, she would have accepted the “ghastly” nature of a second-trimester abortion and terminated the pregnancy. She conceded that people with Down syndrome can be happy and fulfilled, that both they and their parents might be understandably disturbed by the way abortion can effectively cull them from the world. But she concluded with self-acknowledged bluntness: “That was not the child I wanted.”

I know Marcus a little, having chatted with her amiably a few times many years ago. She seemed like a lovely person, like so many of my pro-choice friends; indeed, people who believe firmly in an absolute or near-absolute right to an abortion are effectively my people in a certain tribal way, given that I’m a Connecticut Yankee raised by Bill Clinton-voting boomers and educated in the modern meritocracy. I like these folks; I think they mean well; I try to listen to their arguments with the respect that the sincere and intelligent deserve.

But I also think that they are deceived by a cruel ideology that has licensed the killing of millions of innocents for almost 50 years. In the language that the respectable use to banish views without rebuttal, I regard them — friends and colleagues and faithful readers — as essentially extremists, for whom the distinctive and sometimes awful burdens that pregnancy imposes on women have become an excuse to build a grotesque legal regime in which the most vulnerable human beings can be vacuumed out or dismembered, killed for reasons of eugenics or convenience or any reason at all.


3. Pope: ‘Nothing justifies’ chemical weapons in Syria. 

By Associated Press, April 8, 2018, 7:07 AM

Pope Francis closed his traditional Sunday blessing by saying “nothing can justify” the use of chemical weapons against defenseless populations and called for those responsible for a suspected attack in Syria to seek negotiations.

The pope referred to news of dozens killed, including many children and women, in a suspected poison gas attack on a rebel-held town near the Syrian capital. He offered prayers for the dead and the families that are suffering.

“There is not a good or a bad war, and nothing can justify such instruments that exterminate defenseless people and populations,” the pope said. “Let’s pray that the responsible politicians and military leaders choose another path: that of negotiations, the only one that can bring peace.”


4. Cardinal Burke: Pope’s authority is derived only from obedience to God. 

By Hannah Brockhaus, Catholic News Agency, April 7, 2018, 3:46 PM

Speaking Saturday in Rome, Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke said that the pope is the highest authority in the Church, but because his power is derived from the divine law, the faithful are obligated to reject his teaching if it falls outside that divine law.  

“According to the Holy Scriptures and the Sacred Tradition, the Successor of St. Peter enjoys a power that is universal, ordinary and immediate on all the faithful,” Burke said at a conference on confusion within the Church, held in Rome April 7.

“Since this power comes from God himself, it is limited by natural law and by divine law,” he continued, “which are the expressions of the eternal and immutable truth and goodness that come from God, are fully revealed in Christ and have been transmitted in the Church uninterruptedly.”

“Therefore, any expression of doctrine or practice that is not in conformity with the Divine Revelation, contained in the Holy Scriptures and in the Tradition of the Church, cannot constitute an authentic exercise of the Apostolic or Petrine ministry and must be rejected by the faithful.”

The conference, which was put on partly to honor the last wishes of the late Cardinal Carlo Caffarra, archbishop emeritus of Bolona, was titled: “Church, where are you going?”

The subtitle, “Only the blind would deny there is confusion in the Church,” was taken from one of Caffara’s last interviews before his death on Sept. 6, 2017.

Topics at the conference included questions about the Church’s doctrine on matters of sexual morality; the issue of conscience and the concept of “discernment;” and the limits of papal authority and infallibility, which the Church teaches is applicable only in cases of certain public statements on faith and morals.

Cardinal Burke presented a lengthy speech outlining both what papal power is and what its limits are. He also discussed what he believes to be the role of the bishops and the faithful when the pope is thought to have stepped outside these bounds.

Cardinal Joseph Zen, a bishop emeritus of Hong Kong, was not present, but sent a brief video message recorded in February 2018, stating that though he was not able to travel to the conference, he was there with his prayers and with his heart.

Zen, who has spoken out strongly against a possible forthcoming agreement between the Holy See and the Chinese government, said that the Church is a great family, and that at the center of the family is the Holy See, which is very important.

He noted how Pope Francis likes to emphasize the importance of the peripheries, but said that “in this moment, our periphery, China… is in much difficulty, great difficulty,” and that “many voices from this periphery do not arrive at the center [of the Church.]”


5. ‘Amoris’ critics at Rome summit beg pope, bishops, ‘Confirm us in the faith!’.

By John Allen and Claire Giangravé, Crux, April 7, 2018

At a Rome summit on Saturday of the most ardent opposition figures to Amoris Laetitia, Pope Francis’s controversial 2016 document on the family, lay participants issued a final declaration broadly rejecting the teaching that divorced and civilly remarried Catholics may receive Communion and imploring “the pope and the bishops to confirm us in the faith.”

Their final conclusions, issued Saturday towards the end of the summit, which attracted several hundred people to a Rome hotel near the Vatican, were the following:

1.“We witness and profess in accord with the authentic confession of the faith that a consummated marriage can be dissolved only by death.”
2.“Christians who unite with another person if their spouse is still living commit a great sin.”
3.“We are convinced that this is a norm that applies always and  without exception.”
4.“We are convinced that no subjective judgment of conscience can render an evil action good.”
5.“Forgiveness is based on an intention to abandon a way of life that is contrary to the divine commandments.”
6.“The divorced and remarried who live together may not receive Eucharistic Communion.”


6. Hong Kong Cardinal Seeks Conservative Help to Block a Vatican-China Deal. 

By Reuters, April 8, 2018, 7:24 AM

A Hong Kong cardinal who has spearheaded opposition to the Vatican’s rapprochement with China has asked conservative Roman Catholics who are in open defiance of Pope Francis to back his cause.

The plea on Saturday night by Cardinal Joseph Zen to a Rome conference on the limits of papal authority appeared to be the start of a new alliance that could help both sides bring their message of dissent across.

China and the Vatican have been working out a framework accord on the appointment of bishops, which eventually could lead to diplomatic relations between the Holy See and Beijing. The Vatican has said the deal is not imminent.


7. Feds charge Backpage founder after human-trafficking investigation. 

By Richard Ruelas and Megan Cassidy, USA Today, April 7, 2018, 2:56 AM

A founder of a 45-year-old alternative weekly newspaper in Phoenix has been charged in the apparent culmination of a federal human-trafficking investigation.

Michael Lacey, 69, of Sedona, Ariz., who helped build a nationwide mediaempire out of the Phoenix New Times, was charged Friday as part a 93-count indictment that remained sealed late Friday, according to Lacey’s lawyer, Larry Kazan.

Lacey also co-founded the online classified advertising site Backpage, and authorities had spent months probing whether the website served as a willing participant in the online sale of sex, including with underage girls.

Lacey, former editor of New Times, and Jim Larkin, the former publisher, were arrested in October 2016 on California charges that they had profited from prostitution activities through Backpage. A judge there threw out charges that the pair and Backpage Chief Executive Carl Ferrer conspired to engage in pimping.

Friday’s charges are only the latest in a list of legal troubles for Lacey and also perhaps for Larkin, whose Paradise Valley, Ariz., home was the scene of an FBI search Friday.


8. Remembering Divine Mercy with Kate O’Beirne. 

By Kathryn Jean Lopez, Kathryn Jean Lopez is a senior fellow at the National Review Institute and an editor-at-large of National Review, National Review Online, April 7, 2018, 6:30 AM

The Sunday after Easter, since the days of St. John Paul II, is known as Divine Mercy Sunday in Catholic churches. This year, it’s also Kate the Great Sundayfor a lot of us who loved Kate O’Beirne. 

Her death on Divine Mercy Sunday, a day we had spent together a few years before with other dear friends in Rome, as John Paul II and John XXIII were being canonized by Pope Francis, seemed to emphasize something she had emphasized, even as she tried to live it as the radiant, stately, full-of-grace human being she was: Trust in God. Trust in His mercy. Trust that He works with us, flaws and all.

These days almost a year later — she died on April 23, which was Divine Mercy Sunday last year — I keep finding myself being brought back to the tomb of John Paul II with Kate during one of our trips there. It was my first time in Rome, and his remains at the time were downstairs at St. Peter’s Basilica. I can’t remember why — what had instigated it, other than presumably the Holy Spirit — but our friend Ann Corkery, who had organized the trip, was reading the Litany of Humility prayer, which Clarence Thomas has said he relies on a lot. (Clarence Thomas was a pallbearer at Kate’s Mass for Christian Burial, and one of the many powerful men who were as full of tears as I was that day, a consolation I didn’t expect or look for.)

Kate was a big fan of the Sisters of Life, the order of women religious founded by Cardinal O’Connor in New York, dedicated to making sure no mother felt lost and alone in the world or without support. 

So as pertains to the Sisters of Life — and Mother Teresa, who trusted in Jesus even when she couldn’t hear the confirmations her heart must have longed for in prayer for so much of her life of trust — and Divine Mercy: One of the Sisters of Life, Sister Faustina Maria Pia, wrote a Litany of Trust some years ago. 

While we live our lives… a meditative reflection on the concept of Divine Mercy and the possibility of it as a hopeful healing in lives and culture is worth at least a day, this Sunday, as the Easter festivities have passed (though a season of prayer remains for those who look to liturgical calendars). …. If my late dear friend and colleague can still help, as the day and the moment (as I heard Alleluia!) she passed away indicates that she may, well, thanks be to God. Kate often made things better and may it still be so.


9. College of the Holy Cross theology firestorm has core values at stake. 

By Michael Sean Winters, National Catholic Reporter, April 6, 2018

Professor Tat-siong Benny Liew holds the Class of 1956 Chair of New Testament Studies in the Religious Studies Department of the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts. His views have touched off a firestorm after a conservative campus newspaper published a story that surveyed some of his writings in which, among other things, Liew suggested Jesus might have been a “drag king” who harbored “queer desires.” The controversy is sure to stir up a hornet’s nest, and it should, because core values are at stake here.

In an academic context, there is something worse than offensive or kooky: There is stupid. In a statement, the president of the school, Jesuit Fr. Philip Boroughs, mentioned Liew’s writings were offensive, but I think we all can imagine times when an academic should be willing to offend as she searches for truth. Stupid is another matter. Boroughs also pointed out that Liew is a family man and a churchgoing one at that, but he wasn’t hired on that basis, was he? He was hired as a scholar and so writing something stupid should matter and matter a lot.

In medieval times, one of the reasons a guild was given a monopoly over a particular kind of work was so that its members could police themselves and guarantee that the work would be done well. “We call ourselves a guild,” said Young, “but we don’t function as one.” The academy “can adjudicate plagiarism, but we can’t adjudicate an interpretation, even a really awful one.”

How will the theological community react to this controversy? This is a question first and foremost for the community of scholars at the College of the Holy Cross. I hope they will recognize that episodes like this threaten academic freedom, which, like all freedoms, comes with responsibilities, at a bare minimum with the responsibility to be intellectually serious.

Some will fret that any limitation on academic freedom imperils the whole, that a chilling effect will lead to a deep freeze in creative thought. But I think the opposite is true: Without a category marked “so irresponsible it demands forfeiture of the status the academy normally conveys,” I think academic freedom will be more, not less, imperiled.

What should be done is this: Holy Cross should invite Liew to quit. If he does not, he should not be allowed in a classroom. Let those other professors who did not do due diligence on Liew’s tenure application think of what they could do with the money the school is contractually obligated to pay him, especially when they have to cover his classes.

Let other college presidents and theology school deans come together as they came together to issue the Land O’Lakes statement, and say what people will whisper but no one yet wants to say out loud: This gender ideology nonsense is a fad. Let the educators state that Catholic education is going to take the lead in confining that fad to the rearview mirror. Theologians who dabble in this kind of analysis can apply elsewhere, but they are not wanted at a Catholic college or university.