1. Pope Expresses Shame Over Pennsylvania Report on Sex Abuse, In letter to Catholics, pontiff says crimes against more than 1,000 victims over 70 years weren’t handled in a timely manner.

By Francis X. Rocca, The Wall Street Journal, August 21, 2018, Pg. A7

Pope Francis in a letter to Catholics world-wide expressed shame and repentance over the sexual abuse of children by priests, following months in which the escalating scandal in several countries has raised pressure on the Vatican.

The pope in Monday’s letter, his first to all the world’s Catholic faithful about the scandal, vowed to improve efforts to protect children and punish those in the church who commit sex abuse or cover it up.

The letter offered no specific plans, but the pope said all lay members of the church should take part in those efforts. He laid much of the blame for the sex-abuse crisis on excessive deference to the church’s hierarchy.


2. Wuerl faces a rising tide of anger after abuse report, Pa. grand jury catalogued actions before cardinal became D.C. archbishop.

By Michelle Boorstein, The Washington Post, August 21, 2018, Pg. A1

In the week since a Pennsylvania grand jury reported on child sex abuse by Catholic priests, Cardinal Donald Wuerl’s reputation has taken a brutal hit.

Wuerl, an outwardly mild priest and meticulous manager who picks every word carefully when he speaks, has become for the moment the face of a ballooning crisis in the Catholic Church. And unlike the quiet protests and longings for change of past decades, Catholics in 2018 are demanding accountability — and fast.

“Particularly among people who have stuck with the church this long, who have been through it all, they are saying: ‘God, we cannot go through this again,’ ” said John Allen, who has written multiple books on the Vatican and the U.S. church and now runs the Catholic website Crux. “And my read is that this crowd is not going to be satisfied with assurances. They want to see something real.”

On Monday, Wuerl’s spokesman, Ed McFadden, and his attorney, Mickey Pohl, said the grand jury report has painted the cardinal unfairly, when he was simply following the norms of the day — whether that was coming to confidential settlements with victims or not reporting certain complaints to police. “The report intentionally seeks to create the worst possible outcome in media coverage for someone like his eminence,” McFadden said.

John Garvey, president of Catholic University — the U.S. bishops’ university — told The Washington Post on Monday that reform needs to be lay-led. “Most bishops are good and holy men, but as a group they have lost a lot of trust because of the actions of the ones being reported on,” he said.

In a letter to the school Saturday, Garvey called to students: “The Church is experiencing a moment of real crisis. I encourage you to prepare yourselves to take on key roles in rebuilding Christ’s Church.”


3. Two New Lawsuits Seek to Stop Discrimination Against Religion, The cases seek to expand Supreme Court precedent and establish equality for sectarian education.

By Tim Keller and Michael Bindas, Messrs. Keller and Bindas are attorneys with the Institute for Justice, which litigates educational choice programs nationwide, The Wall Street Journal, August 21, 2018, Pg. A15, Opinion

In Trinity Lutheran Church v. Comer (2017), the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the First Amendment prohibits states from discriminating against religion in the operation of government programs. Two new federal suits, in Washington state and Maine, seek to build on that precedent to end government-mandated religious discrimination in programs that pay for work-study programs and high-school tuition. Although the plaintiffs in these cases live at opposite ends of the country, they face similar discriminatory laws rooted in antireligious animus. A victory in their cases could clear the way for states to adopt programs that empower parents—rather than government—to direct the education of their children.

Two Supreme Court decisions pave the way for eliminating the discrimination against religious options in Washington and Maine. First, in Zelman v. Simmons-Harris (2002), litigated by the Institute for Justice, the justices held that school-voucher programs that include religious options don’t violate the Constitution. The decision established a simple test for determining whether such programs are permissible: The government must remain neutral with regard to religion—neither favoring nor disfavoring it—and the participants must exercise a genuine choice between religious and nonreligious options.

The educational programs in Maine and Washington, like the one in Zelman, are programs of true private choice, but they are hardly neutral toward religion. Religion is the one choice that Maine and Washington prohibit.

The second decision is Trinity Lutheran, which established that religious neutrality isn’t optional.

Missouri’s exclusionary rule was based on the “Blaine amendment” in its state constitution. James G. Blaine, perhaps Maine’s most accomplished politician, is sadly remembered for an explicitly anti-Catholic amendment he proposed to the U.S. Constitution. It would have prohibited government funding for so-called “sectarian” schools, while preserving funding for the then-Protestant common schools most states operated. As the U.S. Supreme Court recognizes, at the time, “sectarian” was code for “Catholic.”

Despite the failure to pass an amendment at the federal level, nativist politicians were able to get Blaine Amendments added to most state constitutions.

The Supreme Court has made clear that Blaine Amendments and other discriminatory government regulations don’t square with the First Amendment. It is time for federal courts to follow Zelman and Trinity Lutheran and give families across the country the full freedom of choice that is their right.


4. Vatican: Pope expected to meet with abuse victims in Ireland.

By Nicole Winfield, Associated Press, August 21, 2018, 8:29 AM

The Vatican said Tuesday that Pope Francis is expected to meet with victims of sexual abuse during his weekend visit to Ireland and speak out about the problem.

Spokesman Greg Burke effectively confirmed the meeting during a briefing Tuesday. He said Francis always meets with victims when he visits countries where abuse “is a reality” and that any information would be released after the fact, based on what the survivors themselves decide.our commitment to ensure the protection of minors and of vulnerable adults.


5. Pope Francis takes a stand, After his strong words, will the Church continue to shield pedophile priests from prosecution and civil liability?

By The Washington Post, August 21, 2018, Pg. A16, Editorial

IN AN extraordinary communique to the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics, Pope Francis on Monday acknowledged the “atrocities” committed by pedophile priests and the church hierarchy that systematically covered up their crimes, recognized the inadequacy of efforts “to beg pardon” and admitted that the victims’ “wounds never go away.” In so doing, the pontiff provided a powerful rationale for dropping the church’s long-standing opposition to allowing decades-old cases of rape and molestation by priests to be subject to prosecution and lawsuits.

At last, after years of half-measures and tone-deaf remarks, the pope seems to have woken up to the scale of abuse and corruption sanctioned by the church. The question now is whether he is willing or able to turn the tide of institutional resistance in the Vatican and dioceses worldwide that too often has blocked victims from seeking justice and recompense.

Until and unless the Vatican reaches down to individual dioceses and parishes, there will be too little real reform in the Catholic Church.


6. Welcoming pope’s letter on abuse, head of U.S. bishops pledges action.

By Catholic News Agency, August 21, 2018

Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. bishops’ conference, has welcomed Pope Francis’ letter to all the faithful addressing the recent sex abuse crises in the Church.

“I am grateful to the Holy Father for his Letter to the People of God, responding to the Pennsylvania grand jury investigation and other revelations that have surfaced,” DiNardo said in a statement released by the bishops’ conference.

“The very fact that he opens the letter with the words of Saint Paul: ‘If one part suffers, all parts suffer with it’ (1 Cor 12:25), shows that he is writing to all of us as a pastor, a pastor who knows how deeply sin destroys lives.”

In his letter, Pope Francis called the universal Church to “a penitential exercise of prayer and fasting.”


7. Boston cardinal pledges changes in procedures after missing McCarrick letter.

By Charles Collins, Crux, August 21, 2018

Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley says he takes “full responsibility” for the failure of an allegation of sexual abuse against then-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick from reaching his hands, and pledged to change procedures in his office to prevent something similar from happening again.

O’Malley was widely credited with cleaning up the Archdiocese of Boston after taking over for the discredited Cardinal Bernard Law in 2003, and was appointed by Pope Francis to head the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors in 2014.

Recently, Father Boniface Ramsey of New York said he sent a letter to O’Malley’s office in Boston in June 2015 which gave details of McCarrick’s alleged abuse against seminarians in New Jersey. Ramsey said he was told his allegations didn’t fall under the purview of O’Malley’s office, and that the priest should forward it to the appropriate Vatican department.


8. Accountability for abuse cover-ups may be acid test for pope’s Irish trip.

By John L. Allen Jr., Editor, Crux, August 21, 2018, Opinion

When a vast clerical sexual abuse scandal erupted in Ireland in 2009/2010, Pope Benedict wrote an open letter to Irish Catholics, the highlight of which was his direct apology to victims and survivors: “You have suffered grievously and I am truly sorry,” he wrote.

However heartfelt it was, the letter also generated considerable blowback because Benedict did not acknowledge any corporate responsibility on the part of the Vatican. Instead, he appeared to place the blame at the feet of the Irish bishops.

The Irish bishops had failed “at times grievously” in dealing with child abuse, the pope said, adding that “grave errors of judgement were made and failures of leadership occurred.”

Critics also faulted Benedict for addressing only Ireland without addressing the global dimensions of the crisis.

Now ten years later, another pope is about to arrive in Ireland in five days’ time, and he too has released a plaintive letter on child sexual abuse – this one addressed not to any particular country, but to the entire People of God (which, as Vatican spokesman Greg Burke put it, means everybody.)

Pope Francis is on his way to Ireland for the close of the Vatican-sponsored World Meeting of Families, unfolding over Saturday and Sunday. This past Sunday, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin said that expectations were running high that Francis will engage the abuse scandals while in the country, and effectively warned his boss that just saying sorry “won’t be enough.”

Perhaps that explains why the Vatican chose to release Francis’s letter on Monday, as part of an effort to reassure the Irish that the pontiff isn’t inclined to duck the issue.

In terms of how the letter will play here, however, it could suffer the same fate as Benedict’s missive a decade ago, frustrating as many people as it reassures.

Certainly, many abuse survivors in Ireland and elsewhere will be cheered that Francis twice used the term “cover-up,” clearly acknowledging that the problem for the Church hasn’t just been the crime but the cover-up, and that the Church needs accountability mechanisms not just for clergy who abuse but for bishops and other officials in leadership positions who fail to act, who turn a blind eye, or who actively conceal the crimes.

The difficulty with such rhetoric, however, is that we’ve heard it before.

If it becomes clear during that time that simply repeating the content of the letter while he’s here won’t be enough, that he’ll have to offer some indication of how that “greater culture of care” will be achieved, perhaps he’ll decide to use Ireland as the setting to do precisely that.

In any event, as the clock winds down to what may well be among the most nerve-wracking trips of Francis’s papacy, one thing seems abundantly clear: How successfully he does, or doesn’t, respond to the questions in the air about the abuse scandals is now the acid test of his success or failure.


9. A Crisis of Infidelity.

By Robert P. George, Robert P. George is McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence at Princeton University, where he teaches constitutional interpretation and philosophy of law, First Things, August 20, 2018

At the heart of the recent Catholic scandals is infidelity—literally the lack of faith. There are priests, including bishops and even cardinals, who do not believe in God, or whose belief in God is merely notional (as definitively evidenced by their lack of fear of Him). In any event, they don’t believe what the Catholic Church teaches about morality (and by morality, I mean not only sexual morality, but also our obligations to love and respect, and not to exploit or abuse, others), or at least they are unwilling or unable to embrace that teaching and embody it in a consistent way in their lives and ministries. So they are unfaithful to, among other things, their vows of chastity and the Church’s teachings about sex and marriage and the duty never to exploit or abuse.

What is the answer? Well, fundamentally the answer to infidelity is fidelity. That is what is needed. As my late friend Fr. Richard John Neuhaus put it, “fidelity, fidelity, fidelity.” There is no proper place for unfaithful priests (of any rank) in the Church. If a man does not believe what the Church teaches about God, about the dignity of the human person, about sex and marriage, or about justice, he should not function as a priest or serve as a bishop. If he cannot or will not proclaim those teachings, and certainly if he cannot or will not lead his life consistently in line with those teachings, he should not be ordained (if he is, or proposes to become, a seminarian) or, if he is already ordained, his priestly faculties should be removed. Period.

In short, what the Church (and by “the Church” I am referring to the lay faithful as well as to the Church’s hierarchical officials) should demand—that is, absolutely insist upon without exception—of its clergy is what the clergy should preach to the people, namely, fidelity.

Theodore McCarrick should have been prosecuted for his alleged crimes against boys. But even apart from those crimes, McCarrick should be stripped of his office and dismissed from the active priesthood for his sexual activity with adult men, including seminarians. The same would be true if his sexual partners had been women rather than men. The issue here is not homosexuality as such, but is rather sexual immorality (and in many cases exploitation and abuse), including but not limited to homosexual conduct. And what I say here about McCarrick applies to every priest of any rank who disgraces the priesthood by committing grave sexual sins in defiance of his vow of chastity. Their infidelity—in every sense of the term—literally cannot be tolerated. It is a poison in the bloodstream of the Church.