1. Clergy Abuse Sparks Sorrow, Call for Accountability by Vatican.

By Ian Lovett, The Wall Street Journal, August 17, 2018, Pg. A3

A Vatican spokesman on Thursday expressed “shame and sorrow” about the allegations of abuse by more than 300 Catholic clergymen in Pennsylvania over 70 years that were detailed in a grand jury report released Tuesday.

“The abuses described in the report are criminal and morally reprehensible,” Greg Burke, the Vatican spokesman, said in a statement. “Those acts were betrayals of trust that robbed survivors of their dignity and their faith. The church must learn hard lessons from its past, and there should be accountability for both abusers and those who permitted abuse to occur.”

Mr. Burke also said that the more than 1,000 victims should know that “the pope is on their side.”


2. The Catholic Bishops Who Failed Us All, A new grand-jury report on sex abuse shows the episcopate behaving like Judas.

By C.C. Pecknold, Mr. Pecknold is an associate professor of theology at the Catholic University of America, The Wall Street Journal, August 17, 2018, Pg. A13, Opinion

The lay faithful have reacted to the grand-jury report with unprecedented anger. Though many have demanded resignations, I do not believe they simply want scapegoats. They would welcome resignations in the managerial class, but that’s not enough.

Instead of rending their hearts like grieving fathers, too many bishops have rendered their silence or their press releases like management professionals. They’ve avoided the critical characteristic that sets the church apart from every other institution in the world: the capacity for self-accusation, self-sacrifice and public penance.

The world—in this case, a grand jury—has helped the church acknowledge grievous faults of the past. But what the world can’t provide is what is needed most. If bishops are to be true shepherds, they must show the world the church’s faith in penance and the confession of sin—the power of pounding the chest and chanting before Christ Crucified, “Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.”


3. Double Religious Jeopardy, Colorado targets the Christian baker who won at the Supreme Court.

By The Wall Street Journal, August 17, 2018, Pg. A14, Editorial

Maybe it’s baked into the cake of modern American progressivism. What else could drive Colorado to go after the same Christian baker less than a month after losing a similar case against him at the Supreme Court?

In finding for Mr. Phillips in June, the Supreme Court said the commission had exhibited “clear and impermissible hostility” toward the baker’s religious beliefs, which included unequal application of the law. But Justice Elena Kagan wrote a concurring opinion essentially saying that the state could win the next time if it disguised its anti-religious bias. Colorado appears to be taking her invitation.

But to pursue Mr. Phillips so quickly, and with a made-to-legal-order plaintiff, Colorado also seems to be showing its animus again. Nobody knows how a Supreme Court with Brett Kavanaugh seated in place of Anthony Kennedy would rule. But if Mr. Phillips ends up back before the Court, let’s hope the majority this time lays out clear guidelines protecting his religious and speech rights.

The alternative is what we are seeing in Colorado, where progressives appear bent on making a literal federal case out of every cake in America.


4. Church must probe ‘moral catastrophe,’ bishop says.

By Chico Harlan, The Washington Post, August 17, 2018, Pg. A8

Calling sexual abuse revelations within the U.S. Catholic Church a “moral catastrophe,” the head of the American bishops’ group called Thursday for wider investigations of a former Washington archbishop and said laypeople should have a greater role in holding clerics accountable.

The announcement, which also urges new steps to resolve complaints against bishops, provides the first sense of how a reeling church seeks to confront serial failures of its hierarchy to report abuse and remove predator priests.

Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, called for an investigation of the “questions surrounding” prelate Theodore McCarrick, a former Washington archbishop, who resigned from the College of Cardinals last month amid allegations that he abused seminarians and minors.

George Weigel, who has written many books about Catholicism and is a scholar at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, based in Washington, said the plans laid out by DiNardo are a “significant step in the direction of real reform.”


5. Vatican in ‘shame and sorrow’ over abuses in Pennsylvania.

By Frances D’Emilio, Associated Press, August 16, 2018, 7:11 PM

The Vatican expressed “shame and sorrow” Thursday over a scathing Pennsylvania grand jury report about clergy who raped and molested children in six dioceses in that state, calling the abuse “criminally and morally reprehensible” and says Pope Francis wants to eradicate “this tragic horror.”

In a written statement using uncharacteristically strong language for the Holy See even in matters like the long-running abuse scandals staining the U.S. church, Vatican spokesman Greg Burke sought to assure victims that “the pope is on their side.”

Speaking about Francis, Burke said: “Those who have suffered are his priority, and the church wants to listen to them to root out this tragic horror that destroys the lives of the innocent.”


6. Bishops request Vatican investigation as abuse crisis grows.

By David Crary, Associated Press, August 16, 2018, 6:19 PM

Responding to what it calls a “moral catastrophe,” the leading body of U.S. Catholic leaders said Thursday it would ask the Vatican to investigate the scandal involving a former cardinal who allegedly engaged in sexual misconduct with children and adult seminarians.

The conference president, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, said a full investigation is necessary “to prevent a recurrence, and so help to protect minors, seminarians, and others who are vulnerable in the future.”

Using formal church terminology for high-level Vatican investigations, DiNardo said he would travel to Rome and ask the Vatican to conduct an “apostolic visitation” to address the McCarrick case, working in concert with a group of predominantly lay experts.

DiNardo also deplored the findings of the grand jury report and said the bishops would work to create a new process to review allegations of misconduct by bishops.

“We are faced with a spiritual crisis that requires not only spiritual conversion, but practical changes to avoid repeating the sins and failures of the past,” DiNardo said. “I have no illusions about the degree to which trust in the bishops has been damaged by these past sins and failures.”


7. Cleansing the Church of Clerical Sacrilege.

By Dominic Legge, O.P., Dominic Legge, O.P., is a Dominican priest and a professor of theology at the Pontifical Faculty of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., First Things, August 16, 2018

It is time for clergy and laity to begin a movement for the purification of the Church. The shameful sexual sins and crimes of clergy—including cardinals, bishops, and priests—can no longer be tolerated. Tolerance is precisely what has allowed these problems to multiply for decades and persist up to today. 

As Fr. Thomas Berg recently explained, the issue is sexually active priests and bishops. In the main, the persistent problem is with homosexually active priests.  Fr. Roger Landry argues—rightly, I think—that most priests who persist in infidelity with women eventually leave the priesthood, but priests who cheat on their vocation with men often continue to live a double life. Most of the issues stem from this kind of duplicity. Networks of active homosexual priests have developed: They protect and promote their own and others who will tolerate them. They become a major problem when they insinuate themselves into positions of power (in a seminary, in a chancery or diocese, in a religious order, in the Roman curia)—as occurred in the case of Theodore McCarrick.

What, then, can be done to fix this problem? We should begin by articulating clearly what remedies are needed. (Getting the bishops and the Vatican to adopt these reforms is another question, but first we need to know what reforms are needed.) Here are five bullet points. 

First, we need to investigate the past and have a transparent accounting of the failures.  

Second, every diocese and religious order needs to implement an affirmative program to screen out vocations applicants with a history of deep-seated same-sex attraction—and certainly those who have engaged in homosexual activity. 

Third, American bishops should enact, as “particular law,” the canonical norms from the 1917 Code of Canon Law (they were mostly dropped from the current Code of Canon Law when it was revised in 1983) dealing with the sexual acts of clerics (whether homosexual or heterosexual, and whether with minors or with adults). Those provisions made sexual activity by clerics, even with other adults, a canonical crime. The punishments included “being deprived of office, benefice, dignity, responsibility, if they have such, whatsoever, and in more serious cases, they are to be deposed.” 

Fourth, there should be an apostolic visitation of all provinces of religious orders, diocesan chanceries, seminaries, the offices of vocation directors, and of the USCCB, to investigate whether they have networks of active homosexual priests, structures of manipulation, or other such misconduct.

Fifth, there needs to be a system for reporting clerical sexual infidelity—even infidelity with “consenting adults”—akin to the system that currently exists for reporting clerical abuse of minors. 

These prescriptions are actually rather straightforward and simple. The hierarchy needs help from laity and investigators from outside the dioceses, religious orders, and seminaries to expose the corruption and begin the process of dismissing the wrongdoers. Let us cleanse the sacrilege, so that the Church will again be holy.

Hand-wringing and pious platitudes won’t fix things. It is time to confront the real problem with courage and sobriety.