1. Catholic criminality, A report details decades of abuse in Pennsylvania.

By The Washington Post, August 15, 2018, Pg. A16, Editorial

THE CATHOLIC CHURCH’S decades-long practice of enabling and systematically covering up the rape and molestation of children by priests is by now sickeningly familiar. Yet the scale of abuse; the breadth and depth of trauma inflicted by predators wearing Roman collars; and the cold bloodedness of senior church figures zealous in their resolve to protect the church but indifferent to the suffering of minors, retain their power to shock the conscience.

Pope Francis lately has made some positive moves, including accepting the resignations of bishops in Chile and removing Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, the former archbishop of Washington, following allegations of abuse. But the pope has proved unwilling and possibly unable to take the sweeping steps required to implement a genuine zero-tolerance policy.

The Pennsylvania report is the most comprehensive X-ray to date of the church’s corruption in one state. It should not be the last. Even after more than 15 years of revelations, there is more to know — and much more to fix.


2. Scrutiny at top: Cardinal Wuerl’s actions depicted as mixed.

By Julie Zauzmer and Reis Thebault, The Washington Post, August 15, 2018, Pg. A1

The groundbreaking investigation into sexual abuse in the Catholic Church in Pennsylvania has raised questions about Cardinal Donald Wuerl, who spent 18 years as the bishop of Pittsburgh and now serves as the archbishop of Washington.

The grand jury report does include numerous examples of Wuerl refusing to return priests to parishes after they were accused of sexual abuse.

Catholic author Michael Sean Winters said that, as he read the report Tuesday, he did not see the reprehensible actions of many of the bishops named in the report — such as concealing cases from the police and lying to victims’ families — in the sections on Wuerl.

What he saw was a bishop who earnestly wanted to confront the problem but also believed in the faulty science of his time. “We learned at a certain point that there’s no cure for this,” Winters said. “There were psychiatrists who said, ‘Yeah, you can return these guys.’ And you couldn’t. That was a mistake.”

Winters agreed, “Of all the bishops mentioned in this report, Wuerl was the one who understood just how wrong this was, before the others. I feel comfortable knowing that Don Wuerl has been ahead of the curve on clergy sex abuse the entire time he has been a bishop, and nothing I read in the report changes my assessment.”


3. Religious Schools See a Champion in Kavanaugh.

By Erica L. Green, The New York Times, August 15, 2018, Pg. A1

Over his decades-long legal career, Judge Kavanaugh has argued in favor of breaking down barriers between church and state. He has filed friend-of-the-court briefs in support of school prayer and the right of religious groups to gain access to public school facilities. He was part of the legal team that represented former Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida in 2000 when he defended a school voucher program that was later ruled unconstitutional. The program had used public funds to help pay the tuition of students leaving some of the state’s lowest-performing schools for private or religious schools.

School voucher champions see Judge Kavanaugh as a critical vote in overturning longstanding constitutional prohibitions, often called Blaine Amendments, that outlaw government funding of religious institutions in more than three dozen states. The amendments have been used to challenge programs that allow taxpayer funding to follow children to private and parochial schools, and are seen as the last line of defense against widespread acceptance of school voucher programs.


4. Catholic leadership site raided in abuse probe.

By Eva Vergara, The Washington Post, August 15, 2018, Pg. A8

Chilean authorities raided the headquarters of the Catholic Church’s Episcopal Conference on Tuesday as part of a widespread investigation into sex abuse committed by members of the Marist Brothers order in the South American country, prosecutors said.

The raids by investigating prosecutors and Chile’s equivalent of the FBI took place at one of the most important buildings of the Chilean church in the capital of Santiago. Investigating prosecutor Raul Guzman, who confirmed the raid, is probing more than 35 accusations of abuse committed against former students at schools run by the Marists, who are religious brothers, not priests.


5. It’s genocide, Stupid.

By The Washington Times, August 15, 2018, Pg. B2, Editorial

Only a year ago the military junta began a sustained assault on the people of Myanmar’s Rohingya district. Over a period of three months, the generals engaged in a campaign of rape, murder and fire, slaying in cold blood thousands of innocents, and burning more than 300 villages, determined to drive out the Muslims who had lived there for centuries.

The evil campaign worked, leaving the civilized world in disbelief. The military’s terror campaign led to the creation of the world’s largest refugee camp, with more than 1 million Rohingyas now living in Bangladesh exile alone. Another million are scattered throughout Asia and fewer than 400,000 remain in their ancestral homelands.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is scheduled to mark these dark times in a speech as early as this week. As unbelievable as it may be, there’s an argument over the tea cups in Foggy Bottom over what name to put on what has happened to the Rohingyans. An early draft of his remarks circulating through Foggy Bottom and at the White House includes the bracketed phrase [“hold for determination] in the passage of the speech to describe what happened.

There’s a name for it, and we’re happy to supply it for the timid folk at the State Department. It’s correctly called “genocide.”

Over the opposition of the United Nations, all U.S. sanctions on Myanmar were lifted. The military leadership obviously interpreted this as a “green light” to step up persecution of the Rohingyas.

The Trump administration must send a clear signal that this is not true; that the light is red. Sam Brownback, the U.S. Ambassador-at-large for Religious Freedom, said at the end of a visit to Myanmar, as Burma is now called, “We have to start calling it what it is. This is religious cleansing. It would not be happening were these people not Muslim. If they were Buddhists, in all likelihood this would not be happening today.” He’s dead right, and Secretary Pompeo should say so when he makes his speech. The United States must call genocide what it is. No euphemisms need apply.


6. Report: Pennsylvania priests abused over 1,000 children.

By Marc Levy and Mark Scolforo, Associated Press, August 15, 2018, 5:23 AM

Those children are among the victims of roughly 300 Roman Catholic priests in Pennsylvania who molested more than 1,000 children — and possibly many more — since the 1940s, according to a sweeping state grand jury report released Tuesday that accused senior church officials, including a man who is now the archbishop of Washington, D.C., of systematically covering up complaints.

The “real number” of abused children and abusive priests might be higher since some secret church records were lost and some victims never came forward, the grand jury said.

In nearly every case, prosecutors found that the statute of limitations has run out, meaning that criminal charges cannot be filed. More than 100 of the priests are dead. Many others are retired or have been dismissed from the priesthood or put on leave. Authorities charged just two, including a priest who has since pleaded guilty.

One senior American church official named in the grand jury report is Cardinal Donald Wuerl, who leads the Washington archdiocese, for allegedly helping to protect abusive priests when he was Pittsburgh’s bishop. Wuerl, who was bishop of the Pittsburgh diocese from 1988 to 2006, disputed the allegations.


7. The Current Crisis.

By George Weigel, George Weigel is Distinguished Senior Fellow of Washington, D.C.’s Ethics and Public Policy Center, First Things, August 15, 2018, Opinion

And the result, over time, was that bishops were too often thought of as mere branch managers of Catholic Church, Inc., whose all-powerful CEO was in Rome.

The Second Vatican Council intended to redress that imbalance and misunderstanding through its primary document, the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, and its Decree on the Pastoral Office of Bishops in the Church. The Council fathers taught that local bishops were true overseers (the Greek meaning of episkopos) of the local churches for which they were responsible; moreover, bishops shared in the governance of the entire Church, with and under the pope. This notion of episcopal “collegiality” was then extended to clusters of local churches, as the Council mandated the formation of national bishops’ conferences.

Implicit in this developed theology of the episcopate was the idea of mutual responsibility among bishops. Their “collegiality” was not the collegiality typical of privileged castes, but that of mutually responsible stewards. 

That responsibility was manifestly not met in the case of the former archbishop of Washington, Theodore McCarrick, revelations of whose sexual predations have caused a wave of righteous anger throughout the Church in the United States.

Nor was the initial response to those revelations the response that was needed—or that could be expected from true shepherds with an understanding of their sheep. Senior leaders of the Church spoke of “protocols” and “processes” when those they claimed to lead wanted to hear words of revulsion, indignation at the abuse of the episcopal office, and determination to fix what had gone terribly wrong. Lawyers and public relations consultants seemed to be writing the script. And it seemed that a primary lesson from the Long Lent of 2002, when too many bishops appeared immune to the Yuck Factor that was driving their people to exasperated rage over clerical sexual abuse, had not been learned.

A first step in a better direction was taken on August 1 in a statement by Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, who decried the McCarrick affair as a “grievous moral failure in the Church,” one that had caused “anger, sadness and shame” among his brother bishops. 

That important first step must now be followed by credible action. Various proposals have been floated about this, that, or the other kind of investigative commission; some bishops have proposed that any such commission must be lay-led in order to have any credibility. That may well be true, but for a lay-led investigation to be successful, it must get full buy-in and continual cooperation from the bishops. And that suggests to me that a lay-led investigation should have an ecclesiastical adviser, in the person of a bishop whose reputation with both the people of the Church and his brother bishops is unimpeachable.

And despite the tsunami of innuendo and guilt-by-association that has fouled the blogosphere in this matter, such bishops exist.


8. After Rwanda closes churches, bishops urge protection of religious rights.

By Jonathan Luxmoore, Catholic News Service, August 15, 2018

The Rwandan Catholic bishops’ conference urged the government of President Paul Kagame to preserve religious rights after government officials closed thousands of churches and mosques.

The government statement confirmed that 1,381 Pentecostal prayer houses had been closed under the February decree, and 15 percent of all mosques, as well as more than a third of the 71 Catholic churches in Rwanda’s western Rusizi district alone.

“These closures do not infringe on freedom to worship, but rather address the alarming proliferation of places of worship in dilapidated and unhygienic conditions, as well as troubling behavior by unscrupulous individuals masquerading as religious leaders,” the statement said. “The latter have, among other abuses, defrauded innocent followers, broadcast insults against women and other religions, and forced followers to fast to the point of death from starvation.”


9. Pope names Venezuelan prelate to key position in secretariat of state.

By Elise Harris, Crux, August 15, 2018

After months of leaving the “sostituto,” or deputy, post at the Vatican Secretariat of State vacant, Pope Francis Wednesday tapped Venezuelan Archbishop Edgar Peña Parra for the position – a man who has an extensive background in areas close to the pope’s heart, including advocating for human rights.

Born in Maracaibo, Venezuela in 1960, Peña Parra since 2015 has served as the pope’s ambassador, called a nuncio, to Mozambique. Prior to that, he was the papal envoy to Pakistan.

The “sostituto” plays a prominent role in the Secretariat of State, overseeing the first section of the body, dedicated to “general affairs.” In practice, the “sostituto” acts as a coordinating link between the pope and the secretary of state, making him one of the closest papal aides.