1. Pope on sex abuse: “We showed no care for the little ones”.

By Nicole Winfield, Associated Press, August 20, 2018, 7:20 AM

Pope Francis issued a letter to Catholics around the world Monday condemning the “crime” of priestly sexual abuse and its cover-up and demanding accountability, in response to new revelations in the United States of decades of misconduct by the Catholic Church.

Francis begged forgiveness for the pain suffered by victims and said lay Catholics must be involved in any effort to root out abuse and cover-up. He blasted the self-referential clerical culture that has been blamed for the crisis, with church leaders more concerned for their reputation than the safety of children.

The Vatican issued the three-page letter ahead of Francis’ trip this weekend to Ireland, a once staunchly Roman Catholic country where the church’s credibility has been damaged by years of revelations that priests raped and molested children with impunity and their superiors covered up for them.

Francis didn’t, however, provide any indication of what concrete measures he is prepared to take to sanction those bishops — in the U.S. and beyond — who covered up for sexually abusive priests. Francis several years ago scrapped a proposed Vatican tribunal to prosecute negligent bishops, and he has refused to act on credible reports from around the world of bishops who have failed to report abusers to police or otherwise botched handling cases, and yet remain in office.


2. A papal visit in a place of lost ground, At Ireland’s Knock Shrine, Francis will join a sea of pilgrims. But the nation’s Catholics are leaving their scandalized church in droves.

By William Booth and Amanda Ferguson, The Washington Post, August 20, 2018, Pg. A9

Next Sunday, during a two-day visit to the country, Pope Francis will make his own pilgrimage to the Basilica Shrine of Our Lady of Knock, Queen of Ireland. He will see a modern-day complex with new youth and counseling centers, a museum and a hotel, surrounded by acres of manicured lawn, everything wired with fiber optics, WiFi and high-end acoustics for 21st-century supplicants.

But Knock Shrine today is an island of faith in a sea of troubles for the Catholic Church in Ireland, which has seen its flock flee in droves and the authority of its once all-powerful clergy shaken — first as the country’s courts and legislature overturned bans on contraception, homosexuality and divorce and, more recently, in two stunning referendums.

In tandem with such dramatic social change, church attendance has withered. You can feel it on a Sunday morning in parishes across the country, where elderly priests presiding over rows of dusty pews distribute the Eucharist with shaky hands to a trickle of pensioners.

Once the most Catholic country in Europe, Ireland is now a place where only about a third of adults attend church weekly, according to surveys.

Gibbons said the 45,000 tickets to see Pope Francis at Knock Shrine this month were snapped up in a few hours, which he takes as a sign of resilient fervor.

Yet for Pope John Paul II’s visit here in 1979, a high-water mark for the church, 450,000 came to hear the pontiff speak.

In the latest census in 2016, 78 percent of Irish declared themselves Catholic, down from 93 percent just three decades earlier.


3. Cardinal McCarrick scandal inflames debate over gay priests.

By David Crary, Associated Press, August 20, 2018, 7:32 AM

Allegations that disgraced ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick engaged in sex with adult seminarians have inflamed a long-running debate about the presence of gay men in the Roman Catholic priesthood.

Some conservatives are calling for a purge of all gay priests, a challenging task given that they are believed to be numerous and few are open about their sexual orientation. Moderates want the Church to eliminate the need for secrecy by proclaiming that gay men are welcome if they can be effective priests who commit to celibacy.

Among the most outspoken moderates is the Rev. James Martin, a Jesuit priest and writer whose book, “Building a Bridge,” envisions a path toward warmer relations between the Catholic Church and the LGBT community.

“The idea of a purge of gay priests is both ridiculous and dangerous,” Martin said in an email. “Any purge would empty parishes and religious orders of the thousands of priests (and bishops) who lead healthy lives of service and faithful lives of celibacy.”

Catholic teaching, when it comes to homosexuality, is nuanced. The church says gays should be treated with dignity and respect, yet it has long taught that homosexual acts are “intrinsically disordered.”

In 2005, the Vatican stated that even celibate gays should not be priests, saying church leaders cannot accept seminary applicants who “practice homosexuality, present deep-seated homosexual tendencies or support the so-called ‘gay culture.’”

Pope Francis has reaffirmed this policy, despite his famous “Who am I to judge?” comment in 2013 when asked about a purportedly gay priest.

On the front lines in implementing that policy are priests like the Rev. Thomas Berg, admissions director at St. Joseph’s Seminary in Yonkers, New York.

As for gays already serving as priests, Berg says he doesn’t advocate a “witch hunt” to root them out. But he says the Church needs to identify sexually active priests, challenge them to repent, and consider their removal from the priesthood.

Berg proposes that dioceses appoint independent watchdogs — ideally people with law enforcement background — to receive and assess anonymous allegations of clergy sexual misconduct.


4. Read the pope’s letter to the faithful on abuse in Catholic Church.

By Paul Schemm

The Washington Post, August 20, 2018, 7:31 AM

Letter of His Holiness Pope Francis
To the People of God

“If one member suffers, all suffer together with it” (1 Corinthians 12:26). These words of Saint Paul forcefully echo in my heart as I acknowledge once more the suffering endured by many minors due to sexual abuse, the abuse of power and the abuse of conscience perpetrated by a significant number of clerics and consecrated persons. Crimes that inflict deep wounds of pain and powerlessness, primarily among the victims, but also in their family members and in the larger community of believers and nonbelievers alike. Looking back to the past, no effort to beg pardon and to seek to repair the harm done will ever be sufficient. Looking ahead to the future, no effort must be spared to create a culture able to prevent such situations from happening, but also to prevent the possibility of their being covered up and perpetuated. The pain of the victims and their families is also our pain, and so it is urgent that we once more reaffirm our commitment to ensure the protection of minors and of vulnerable adults.


5. Wuerl to address abuse claims in priest meeting.

By Victor Morton, The Washington Times, August 20, 2018, Pg. A1

Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the archbishop of Washington, will reportedly hold a meeting Monday of priests in the archdiocese over his role in the Pennsylvania sex abuse case.

Parishioners in the Archdiocese of Washington, already rocked by Cardinal McCarrick revelations, expressed outrage Sunday over the sexual abuse detailed in a Pennsylvania grand jury’s report but had a variety of reactions about Cardinal Wuerl’s role in concealing those crimes from public scrutiny when he was bishop of Pittsburgh.

Cardinal Wuerl, who served as bishop of Pittsburgh for 18 years, defended his role Tuesday: “While I understand this report may be critical of some of my actions, I believe the report confirms that I acted with diligence, with concern for the victims and to prevent future acts of abuse.” The report did note that Cardinal Wuerl did discipline some priests and tried to create a more transparent process in dealing with such matters.


6. Rules for Metro ads only spur confusion, The cheeky signs hang while others are banned highlights inconsistency.

By Martine Powers, The Washington Post, August 19, 2018, Pg. C1

The particularities of Metro’s advertising guidelines have some riders scratching their heads.

Case in point: New ads for the online dating app OkCupid, which appeared in the system last month, featuring clever tag lines riffing on the acronym “DTF” — millennial parlance for casual sex.

The ads clearly comport with Metro’s advertising policies, passed in 2015. Contrary to assumptions, those 14-point ad guidelines do not explicitly ban profanity. But the displeasure of some riders over the ads highlights dissatisfaction with the apparent inconsistencies in what is deemed acceptable for the viewing of Metro customers.

After all, this is the same transit agency that barred the American Civil Liberties Union from posting an advertisement that simply stated the text of the First Amendment. Metro cited a ban on political or “issues-oriented” ads.

It’s also the same agency that has waged a months-long legal battle with the Catholic Archdiocese of Washington to defend Metro’s ban on religious ads and its continued prohibition of an ad promoting holiday charitable giving that features Nativity-themed clip art.

As it stands, members of the Metro board appear to have little appetite for revisiting the ad guidelines and are largely wary of wading into debate over particular ads that are deemed controversial. Board members contacted for this report all declined to comment, citing the high stakes of the litigation between Metro and the Archdiocese of Washington.

Last month, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled in favor of Metro, declaring that the transit agency’s ban on “advertisements that promote or oppose any religion, religious practice or belief” is legal and has been enforced fairly.

Ed McFadden, secretary of communications for the archdiocese, said the organization is determining whether it will appeal the court’s ruling. It has another week to decide.

But already, behind the scenes, Metro is preparing for the possibility that the case may wind its way to the U.S. Supreme Court.


7. A Too-Narrow Vision of Religious Freedom, The Trump administration embraces a laudable desire to expand religious tolerance, but its own intolerance toward some undermines the message.

By The New York Times, August 19, 2018, Pg. SR10, Editorial

Even President Trump’s fiercest critics can find something to applaud in the administration’s campaign to protect and advance religious freedom around the world.

The State Department’s inaugural conference on the subject drew hundreds of activists and scores of foreign officials to Washington last month and produced a statement of core beliefs and a plan to hold follow-up meetings in the United States and overseas.

The conference was ostensibly called to address the rising threat to religious freedom. Some 80 percent of the global population is severely limited in exercising this right, and of the world’s 198 countries, 55 countries, or 28 percent, experienced high or very high levels of government restrictions on religion in 2016, according to a recent study from the Pew Research Center.

The current administration took its advocacy to a new level with the three-day conference, whose invited participants were more diverse than many expected.

Supporting people facing religious persecution overseas is both a moral burden of the United States and an exercise in self-interest. As Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said, religious freedom is “an essential building block for all free societies.” But it is not the only one.

If the Trump administration aspires to truly advance religious freedom, it will need to embrace a far broader vision of human rights.

8. After Wuerl’s pullout, Pope in Ireland may have to face not just crime but cover-up.

By John L. Allen Jr., Editor, Crux, August 19, 2018, Opinion

An already challenging trip to Ireland for Pope Francis next weekend became even more vexing on Saturday, as news broke that Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C., had pulled out of a keynote speech at the World Meeting of Families which is the official purpose of the pontiff’s visit.

Wuerl withdrew because of the tempest caused by a Pennsylvania Grand Jury report questioning his record on handling sexual abuse charges as the bishop of Pittsburgh in the 1990s and 2000s. In that context, the no-show adds additional pressure on Francis to tackle the abuse scandals head on while he’s in a country which, arguably, has been more scarred by them than any other place in the world.

Although it’s not yet been officially confirmed, it’s widely expected that Francis will meet abuse survivors while he’s in Ireland. In light of what’s happened over the last few weeks, which includes not only Wuerl’s withdrawal but also Cardinal Sean O’Malley’s (in his case, due to accusations of sexual impropriety at Boston’s St. John’s Seminary), as well as the scandals surrounding ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, the unfolding crisis in Chile, and other unhappy developments, how Francis handles any encounter with survivors takes on a whole new importance.

Beyond the immediate implications, here are three other quick take-aways about Wuerl’s retreat and where things go from here.

First, it’s increasingly clear that there’s no exit strategy for Wuerl short of a full public accounting for his actions in Pittsburgh.

Second, Francis may be hamstrung by O’Malley and Wuerl’s withdrawals from the World Meeting of Families for reasons that have a much longer shelf-life than his 32-hour trip to Ireland.

As far as O’Malley goes, he’s by far the figure at senior levels of the Catholic hierarchy most identified with the reform cause on sexual abuse. Precisely because O’Malley is seen as being on the side of the angels, whenever he defends Francis it affords the pontiff immediate credibility.

Should O’Malley’s reputation or effectiveness be hampered by the scandals at St. John’s, it would create a void for Francis that might not be easy to fill.

As far as Wuerl’s concerned, he’s been a key Francis ally and confidante, especially on the pope’s controversial document Amoris Laetitia, opening a cautious door to Communion for Catholics who divorce and remarry outside the Church. While Wuerl is hardly the only prelate at senior levels who’s backed Francis on that front, he has been among the most outspoken, and Francis could find himself on the market for a replacement depending on how things play out.

Third and finally, the Wuerl case puts an exclamation point on a conclusion about the sexual abuse scandals that should already have been clear: The problem for the Church isn’t really the crime, it’s the cover-up.

The central lesson of the Wuerl drama may be precisely this: In the absence of a mechanism to pursue these cover-up claims, it’s the worst of both worlds. Bishops who really did drop the ball aren’t held accountable, and those whose reputations have been unjustly smeared have no recourse to defend themselves.

Perhaps it’s premature to expect that Francis’s trip to Ireland in one week’s time will bring definitive answers as to how to build such a system. Yet if the pope simply acknowledges it’s the right question to be asking, that could strike many people here and elsewhere as progress.


9. Irish archbishop urges pope to speak frankly about abuse.

By Nicole Winfield, Associated Press, August 19, 2018, 12:44 PM

The archbishop of Dublin said Sunday he hopes Pope Francis will speak frankly about the “darkness” of priestly sex abuse during his upcoming visit to Ireland, which has been clouded by new revelations of misconduct in the U.S. Catholic Church.

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, who has spent years trying to recover the Irish church’s credibility following decades of abuse and cover-up, dedicated his Sunday homily to Francis’ Aug. 25-26 trip. He said it comes at a time of heightened anxiety over the future of the church in Ireland and beyond.


10. Bishop: Church today ‘not the church’ of grand jury report.

By Nicole Winfield, Associated Press, August 19, 2018, 12:14 PM

The bishop of Pittsburgh’s Roman Catholic diocese pushed back against a call for his resignation and said the diocese has “followed every single step” needed for responsible action after allegations of child sexual abuse.

Bishop David Zubik spoke Sunday to George Stephanopoulos on ABC’s “This Week” following the Tuesday release of a landmark report detailing widespread child sexual abuse in six Pennsylvania Roman Catholic dioceses. The report accused Zubik of not reporting credible allegations.

Zubik said he can understand the rage people have reading the report and “I feel that rage too.” But he said that since he became the bishop in 2007, “we have followed every single step that we needed to follow to be responsible in our response to the victims.”

Officials have, he said, listened to victims “very carefully,” removed priests from dioceses, turned allegations over to appropriate district attorneys, let an independent review board look at whether a return to ministry is warranted and finally, informed parishioners of the diocese’s actions.


11. Appeals court protects Texas bishops’ communications in abortion case.

By Catholic News Agency, August 17, 2018, 10:30 AM

The privacy and religious freedom of Texas bishops and other religious groups was upheld by the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in New Orleans, after the bishops’ internal communications were subpoenaed by an abortion group.

In the 2016 case Whole Woman’s Health v. Smith, an abortion group sued the state of Texas, challenging a law that would require abortion facilities to bury or cremate aborted fetal remains.

The bishops released more than 4,000 pages of abortion-related communications with outside individuals, but did not turn over private, internal communications between bishops on the matter, and appealed for emergency protection of these communications.

In June, a three-judge panel of a federal appeals court protected the bishops’ emails and communications, after which Woman’s Health appealed for a full court hearing.

The bishops’ right to protect their internal communications from government interference or opposition groups was again upheld by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans yesterday.


12. After welcoming pro-lifers, Missouri Democrats quickly backtrack.

By Catholic News Agency, August 17, 2018, 11:11 AM

Missouri Democratic leaders have voted to remove language acknowledging different views of abortion from their party platform, drawing criticism from pro-life Democrats who say they deserve to be recognized and the move could harm the party’s prospects this November.

Kristen Day, president of Democrats for Life of America, said the actions of state party chairman Stephen Webber “send the message that pro-life Missourians are unwelcome in the party.”

The previous party platform language was approved at a June meeting of the state party platform committee by a 31-25 vote, the St. Louis-based newspaper The Riverfront Times reports.

“We respect the conscience of each Missourian and recognize that members of our party have deeply held and sometimes differing positions on issues of personal conscience, such as abortion,” said the added language. “We recognize the diversity of views as a source of strength and we welcome into our ranks all Missourians who may hold different positions on this issue.”

The Missouri Democratic Party’s central committee voted to remove the platform language on Aug. 11. It then added language saying the party opposes “any efforts to limit access to reproductive health care” and backs “a woman’s right to choose and the right of every person to their own bodily autonomy and to be free from government intrusion in medical decisions, including a decision to carry a pregnancy to term.”

The central committee also added a preamble stating that the platform reflects the party’s values, though candidates must articulate their own policy positions.

“We made a mistake,” said St. Louis alderwoman Annie Rice, “Abortion is a legal healthcare procedure, and as a party we must support access.”


13. Will other states follow Pennsylvania on church abuse?

By Marc Levy, Associated Press, August 17, 2018

Attorneys general around the U.S. have been largely silent this week about any plans to conduct an investigation like Pennsylvania’s that uncovered widespread child sexual abuse in six Roman Catholic dioceses, although New York’s top prosecutor is an exception, saying she is exploring teaming up with the local district attorneys.

Maine investigated its only diocese, releasing a report in 2004, and New Hampshire investigated its only diocese, coming to a 2002 settlement that involved the diocese enacting strict new child protection policies.

The investigation also prompted the dioceses to publish lists, for the first time, of priests accused of sexual misconduct. On Friday, an Indiana bishop, Kevin Rhoades, of the Fort Wayne-South Bend Diocese, said he will publicly release the names of all the priests in his Catholic diocese who’ve been removed from the ministry following “credible” allegations they sexually abused children.


14. Archbishop Chaput’s Weekly Column: On Anger, Grief, and the Future.

By Archbishop Charles Chaput, Archdiocese of Philadelphia, August 17, 2018

This has been an ugly week: first for the survivors of sex abuse; second, for Catholics across the state; third, for the wider public. For many, rage is the emotion of choice. The latest grand jury report is a bitterly painful text. But rage risks wounding the innocent along with the guilty, and it rarely accomplishes anything good.

The Stoics believed that anger is never a healthy thing: It always involves an inhuman appetite to hurt others, and it always poisons the soul. But this isn’t the Christian view. The anger Jesus showed toward the Temple moneychangers, the Sadducees, and the Pharisees was not merely acceptable but right and good. The anger Philadelphians felt toward the Archdiocese after the 2005 and 2011 grand jury reports was likewise well placed and justified.

We’ve worked hard to remember the lessons of that time. Seven years later, we are keenly aware of the evil that sexual abuse victims have suffered. We understand our obligation, and we’re sincerely committed, to help survivors heal. We’ve worked hard to ensure the safety of children and families in Church-related environments. In that task, the guidance and counsel of laypeople – including former law enforcement officials and professionals in assisting abuse survivors – have been especially valuable. We know that rebuilding the trust of our people and the morale of our good priests can only be accomplished with a record of doing the right thing over time. The roughly 100,000 laypeople and clergy we’ve trained in recent years to recognize and report the signs of sexual abuse are part of that effort.

This week’s grand jury report on clergy sex abuse in six Pennsylvania dioceses covers more than seven decades. Some people, credible people, have challenged its processes and disputed elements of its content. But the substance of the report is brutally graphic and profoundly disturbing as a chronicle of evil inflicted on hundreds of innocents. The only acceptable responses are grief and support for the victims, and comprehensive efforts to ensure that such things never recur. And anger. Anger is also a righteous and necessary response – but it needs to be an anger that bears good fruit; an anger guided by clear thinking, prudence, and a desire for real justice. That kind of anger all of us should feel this week and carry with us into the days ahead.


15. Amid Vatican talks, China official says foreign forces can’t control religion.

By Reuters, August 17, 2018, 11:31 PM

Religious matters in China cannot be controlled by foreigners, Beijing’s seniormost official for religion wrote in a Communist Party journal, amid talks with the Vatican to resolve a dispute over the appointment of Catholic bishops.

“There is no affiliate relationship between our country’s religions and foreign religions. Our country’s religious groups and religious matters do not accept domination by foreign forces,” Wang wrote, without making direct reference to any religion or the talks with the Vatican.

Religion in China has to follow the principle of “Sinification” under the guidance of the party, he added.

China’s constitution proclaims freedom of belief, but in reality the officially atheist ruling Communist Party keeps a tight rein over all religious groups, an area of frequent concern for Western governments and rights groups.

Wang said that China guaranteed the rights of believers, and that it was wrong to believe religion could be left free of government supervision or that it should be forcefully curbed or even wiped out.

Still, religion should not be allowed to interfere in administrative, legal or education matters, he added.

“The separation of government and religion must be upheld,” Wang wrote.