1. Pope abolishes ‘pontifical secret’ in clergy sex abuse cases.

By Nicole Winfield, The Associated Press, December 17, 2019, 6:07 AM

Pope Francis has abolished the “pontifical secret” used in clergy sexual abuse cases, after mounting criticism that the high degree of confidentiality has been used to protect pedophiles, silence victims and keep law enforcement from investigating crimes.

In a new document, Francis decreed that information in abuse cases must be protected by church leaders to ensure its “security, integrity and confidentiality.” But he said “pontifical secret” no longer applies to abuse-related accusations, trials and decisions under the Catholic Church’s canon law.

The new laws were issued Tuesday, Francis’ 83rd birthday, as he struggles to respond to the global explosion of the abuse scandal, his own missteps and demands for greater transparency and accountability from victims, law enforcement and ordinary Catholics alike.


2. Vatican Ambassador to France Resigns After Molestation Allegations.

Reuters, December 17, 2019, 7:34 AM

Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of Archbishop Luigi Ventura, the Holy See’s ambassador to France, who has been accused of sexual molestation, the Vatican said on Tuesday.


3. Does your pastor preach too long? A new survey shows the dramatic differences in sermons.

By Sarah Pulliam Bailey, Washington Post Online, December 17, 2019, 5:30 AM

One of America’s most famous sermons, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” likely took Jonathan Edwards close to an hour to deliver in 1741. Today most white Protestant pastors wouldn’t dare keep people in the pews that long.

In a new report released Monday, the Pew Research Center analyzed nearly 50,000 sermons posted online by 6,431 churches this year to find out just how long Christian clergy preach and the words they use that distinguish them from one another.

Pew analyzed audio, video and word count of sermons to estimate the length of sermons in different denominations. The average length of a sermon, researchers found, is 37 minutes, but there are “striking differences” across traditions:

·        14 minutes for Catholics

·        25 minutes for mainline Protestants

·        39 minutes for evangelicals

·        54 minutes for historically black Protestants

 The Rev. John Baldovin, a Jesuit priest who is a professor of liturgy and the sacraments at Boston College, estimates that the average Catholic priest spends two hours preparing for a sermon, devoting the rest of the week on managing the parish or other ministry needs, such as visiting people in the hospital.

“I won’t preach more than 10 minutes on a Sunday,” said Baldovin, who splits his time at parishes near Boston. “You can tell when people are ready for you to land a plane. There’s nothing worse than listening to a plane come into the runway and take off again.”


4. Despite Trump’s vow to revive the death penalty, support for capital punishment shrank in 2019.

By Kim Bellware, Washington Post Online, December 17, 2019, 12:01 AM

“I MapQuested this,” Dunham told The Washington Post ahead of the release of a new DPIC report Tuesday. “If you started your car in Madawaska, Maine, and you drove it to Fort Gay, West Virginia, you would go 1,289 miles without setting a tire in a death penalty state.”

The disappearance of the death penalty in the Northeast marks its steady decline across the United States, which continued in 2019, according to the report. Despite President Trump’s desire to resume federal executions, use of and support for the death penalty trended downward by almost every metric: Nationwide, there were fewer than 30 executions and 50 death sentences for the fifth year in a row. Public support for the death penalty remains near a 47-year low.


5. Death penalty continues to decline in the U.S. according to new report.

By Christopher White, Crux, December 17, 2019

For five years in a row, there have been fewer than 30 death penalty executions and fewer than 50 death sentences, according to a new report that chronicles a continued dramatic decline in the use of capital punishment in the United States.

The new report, released on Tuesday by the Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC), notes that there were 22 executions in 2019, down slightly from 25 in 2018 and that in that same time, New Hampshire abolished the practice and California declared a moratorium on executions.

Robert Dunham, executive director of DPIC, told Crux that it is important to view the federal jurisdiction as one jurisdiction among others and that the question with the Trump administration was whether they were going to follow the state trends and not impose the practice or whether they were going to be an outlier.

In June, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) voted to revise the U.S. Catechism as a follow-up to Pope Francis’s August 2018 decision to update the global Catechism of the Catholic Church declaring the practice of the death penalty to be inadmissible.

During his September 2015 address to a joint session of the U.S. Congress, Francis applauded the U.S. bishops for their efforts to abolish the death penalty.


6. Montreal’s Dowd shows different face of ‘the bishops’ on the abuse crisis.

By John L. Allen Jr., Editor, Crux, December 17, 2019

On no front has that been truer of late than the clerical sexual abuse crisis. Indeed, sometimes it seems the lone thing the Catholic left and right can agree on vis-à-vis the scandals is the dismal performance of the hierarchy.

For everyone tempted to such a complaint, however, there’s also Bishop Thomas Dowd.

An auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Montreal in Canada, Dowd was recently in a radio feature by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation with the deliberately provocative headline, “Meet the Catholic bishop who brought a pedophile priest to justice.”

The report tells the story of Dowd’s efforts to bring a Montreal priest named Brian Boucher to justice. Last January, Boucher was convicted of sexually abusing two minor boys, following two separate legal proceedings, and was sentenced to eight years in prison. The fact that Boucher’s cases ever went to trial was largely a result of Dowd’s efforts to identify victims after hearing rumors of misconduct, and then presenting his findings to police and prosecutors.


7. Pope Francis urges ‘community of solidarity’ between young and old.

Catholic News Agency, December 16, 2019, 11:00 AM

The elderly are crucial to a society that is respectful of the rights of all, Pope Francis told leaders and members of Italy’s National Association of Elderly Workers on Monday. Speaking at an audience commemorating the 70th anniversary of the organization’s founding, the pope said that “communion” among generations is vital for human dignity and a healthy society.

“Older people, on a social level, should not be considered as a burden, but for what they really are, that is, a resource and a wealth,” said Pope Francis. The elderly, he said, are “a memory of the people,” and valuable contributors to society.

“The biggest challenge that society will face in the coming years is to promote ever more effectively the human resources of the elderly within the community,” he said. The elderly have a “wisdom and experience,” that is key to creating “a world that is more respectful of everyone’s rights.” 


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