1. The cardinal’s conviction, Will the Catholic Church change after a “historical” sex abuse case?

The Washington Post, December 18, 2018, Editorial, Pg. A18

CARDINAL GEORGE PELL was, as Vatican treasurer, one of the Catholic Church’s most powerful figures and a senior counselor to Pope Francis, until Mr. Pell was placed on a leave of absence last year. Last week, he was convicted in an Australian court on what were referred to there as “historical” sex abuse charges. 

Yet the crucible of clergy sex abuse remains a thoroughly contemporary blight for the church, for the Vatican and for Francis, whose papacy, already blemished by his flailing and shuffling on the issue, hangs in the balance.

The pope has summoned the leaders of the world’s conferences of bishops to the Vatican in February for what church leaders suggest will be a reckoning with a scandal that burst into global view nearly 17 years ago. The conclave was impelled not so much by newly enlightened thinking in Rome as by the fallout after a Pennsylvania grand jury’s report, in the summer, that found more than 300 priests had abused more than 1,000 children over the course of decades.

In fact, the scale of the church’s complicity was clear previously, from revelations heaped upon revelations. The conviction of Mr. Pell, though he is the highest-ranking church official so implicated, is simply the latest, among countless pieces of evidence, that argue for broad, deep and painful reforms — precisely the sort of overhaul that the pope has so far resisted.


2. Jesuits name priests accused of sexually abusing minors.

By Julie Zauzmer and Marisa Lati, The Washington Post, December 18, 2018, Pg. A1

The Maryland Province Jesuits, a Catholic religious order with clergy serving throughout the Washington area and across eight states, released a list Monday of priests in the order who have been “credibly accused” of sexually abusing children since the 1950s.

The men accused of sexually abusing minors worked for decades in high schools, including Gonzaga College High School in the District; in colleges, including St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, the University of Scranton in Pennsylvania, Wake Forest University in North Carolina and several more; at Georgetown University’s hospital; at churches in the District and Baltimore; and other institutions.

Religious orders — including the Jesuits, the Catholic church’s largest male order with almost 17,000 priests and brothers around the world — have been particularly criticized by victims’ advocates for their opacity. Of about 48,500 priests nationwide, about 31 percent are from religious orders, and the other 69 percent are from dioceses, according to the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, a research center at Georgetown University.

In October, the major umbrella organization for male orders urged the groups to publish names of their accused members, and on Monday, the Maryland Province Jesuits named five living Jesuits, three who left the order after being accused of misconduct, and five who have died.


3. One-Stop Access to Birth Control as a Bid to Cut Poverty.

By Margot Sanger-Katz, December 18, 2018, The New York Times, Pg. A12

When a woman of childbearing age goes to the doctor in most places, she gets standard queries about her smoking, drinking, seatbelt use and allergies. In Delaware, she is now also asked: “Do you want to get pregnant in the next year?”

If her answer is no, clinics are being trained to ensure she gets whatever form of birth control she wants that very day, whether a prescription or an implant in her arm.

This simple question — so new that electronic medical record systems had to be modified to record the answer — is part of the state’s effort to remake its approach to contraception. The bet by state officials is that this will both reduce unintended pregnancies and help women escape poverty. It could also reduce state spending on Medicaid.

There is some resistance to contraception in America — the Roman Catholic Church remains broadly opposed, and some anti-abortion and religious groups object to particular forms — but birth control is mostly uncontroversial. According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 99 percent of sexually active women between 15 and 44 have used some form of contraception.

The idea of contraception as a key to economic mobility emerged after the 1960s and 1970s, when contraception and abortion became legal state by state. A string of studies showed that, when birth control arrived, women’s careers and educational attainment improved — and the number of children they had declined.

“It’s very expensive and very hard to reduce poverty,” Ms. Sawhill said. “Reducing unplanned births is easy by comparison.”


4. Don’t Blame Migrants for Everything, Pope Tells Politicians.

By Reuters, December 18, 2018

Pope Francis on Tuesday condemned nationalist leaders who blame migrants for their countries’ problems and themselves fostered mistrust in society by pursuing dishonest gain and xenophobic and racist policies.

The 82-year-old pope, who has made defense of migrants a plank of his papacy, made the comments in his message for the Catholic Church’s World Day of Peace on Jan. 1. It is sent to heads of state and government and international organizations.


5. Vatican committee: Church credibility at risk over sex abuse.

By The Associated Press, December 18, 2018, 7:33 AM

Organizers of Vatican summit on sex abuse prevention are warning that the credibility of the Catholic Church is in jeopardy over the abuse scandal and are urging participants to meet with victims to hear their pain firsthand.

In a letter sent Tuesday to the presidents of bishops’ conferences worldwide, organizers said the church must develop a “comprehensive and communal response” to the crisis, and that the first step is “acknowledging the truth of what has happened.”

Pope Francis invited the church leaders to the Feb. 21-24 summit to respond to the latest eruption of the scandal in the U.S., Chile and elsewhere. The Vatican said the summit would focus on three main areas: responsibility, accountability and transparency.

Organizers wrote: “Each of us needs to own this challenge.”


6. Pope shakes up Vatican communications operations.

By The Associated Press, December 18, 2018, 6:53 AM

Pope Francis announced Tuesday a shakeup of the Vatican’s communications operations, replacing the longtime editor of the Holy See newspaper and naming a prominent Italian journalist to coordinate the editorial line of all Vatican media.

Andrea Tornielli, Vatican reporter for Turin daily La Stampa, was named to the new position of editorial director for the Dicastery of Communications, responsible for coordinating the Vatican’s editorial operations.

In addition, the Vatican named an Italian writer and professor, Andrea Monda, to become editor of L’Osservatore Romano newspaper. He replaces Giovanni Maria Vian, a church historian and journalist who has headed the daily since 2007.

The Vatican’s media operations have been undergoing a problematic reform process aimed at reducing redundancies and improving coordination. Among its victims was Vatican Radio and its vast multilingual broadcasts.


7. No matter what, Pope will send a signal about reform in curia speech. 

By John L. Allen Jr, Editor, Crux, December 18, 2018

The Latin American pope has given five such speeches so far to the senior leadership of the Vatican bureaucracy, and by the time he’s done, there will no doubt be several more.

Yet despite all that, there is something special about this edition of the pope’s annual appointment with his Vatican team, one that lends an air of portent to whatever he chooses to say.

If the pope does not address the stall in reforms, both on sex abuse and on finances, that’s inevitably going to be taken by many in the curia as a signal that Francis is largely content with the status quo. Some will be frustrated, others satisfied, but in any event the message will be that this is as far as we go.

On the other hand, the pope could choose to say that after some important but preliminary measures up to this point, 2019 needs to be the year in which we get real. Accountability for negligence on both sex abuse and money must be achieved, and real steps in that direction need to be taken.

If that’s the message, then curia personnel will come away from the speech bracing themselves for real change.

We’ll have to wait for Friday to see which way things go, but given what’s at stake, it’s definitely an appointment not to be missed.


8. Vatican urged to reveal status of ousted US archbishop

By Nicole Winfield and Amy Forliti, The Associated Press, December 17, 2018, 5:51 PM

A prominent U.S. archbishop is asking the Vatican for answers about the status of an investigation into alleged sexual misconduct by his predecessor, who was forced to resign in 2015.

St. Paul and Minneapolis Archbishop Bernard Hebda wrote a remarkable letter to his flock Friday in which he revealed he sent the Vatican in 2016 a new allegation of improprieties with minors against retired Archbishop John Nienstedt.

County prosecutors informed Hebda of the allegation in 2016. 

Nienstedt was one of the first U.S. bishops known to have been forced from office for botching sex abuse investigations. He also faced allegations of engaging in inappropriate sexual behavior with adults. He denied misconduct, and the archdiocese hired two law firms to investigate those claims in 2014, but the results were never made public.