1. Pope Urges Priests Guilty of Sex Abuse to Turn Themselves In, The remarks follow a year of abuse scandals in the church in the U.S., Latin America, Europe and Australia.

By Francis X. Rocca, Wall Street Journal Online, December 21, 2018, 6:25 AM

Pope Francis on Friday capped a year of sex-abuse scandals in the Catholic Church by vowing to “do all that is necessary” to punish abusers for their “abominations” and urging the guilty to turn themselves in.

In his speech, the pope noted that he has called a Vatican summit of bishops from around the world to discuss the abuse crisis over four days in February. 

Pope Francis’ credibility on fighting abuse was weakened in 2018 by widespread criticism over his prolonged support for a Chilean bishop accused of covering up wrongdoing by another priest, and by accusations by a former Vatican envoy to the U.S. that the pope had ignored a history of sexual misconduct by a U.S. cardinal.

The pope has declined to respond to the envoy’s accusations but has made apparent allusions to them on a number of occasions. On Friday, he denounced clerics who “hide behind good intentions in order to stab their brothers and sisters in the back and to sow weeds, division and bewilderment,” comparing such people to Judas, the betrayer of Jesus.


2. Clash Over Same-Sex Adoption Heads to Court, Evangelical agency claims First Amendment right to refuse placements with gay couples; New York says the stance violates the law.

By Jacob Gershman, Wall Street Journal Online, December 21, 2018, 5:30 AM

A federal judge is poised to rule on whether an evangelical adoption agency in central New York state that receives no government funding can refuse to place children with same-sex couples despite a five-year-old antidiscrimination law.

New Hope Family Services, an evangelical adoption agency based in Syracuse that for decades has refused to place children with same-sex couples, recently drew a warning from child-welfare officials who gave New Hope until December to agree to accept gay applicants or face closure.

New Hope is suing the state in federal court, asserting it has a religious right under the First Amendment to turn away gay and lesbian couples applying to adopt children. The judge’s ruling could potentially set a legal precedent. At least eight states have antidiscrimination rules for adoptions like the one in New York.

Catholic Charities of Buffalo, N.Y., said in August that it is phasing out its adoption program because it couldn’t “simultaneously comply with state regulations and conform to the teaching of the Catholic Church on the nature of marriage.” Catholic Charities affiliates in Boston and Illinois have also gotten out of the adoption business.

Lawyers for New Hope claim the regulation banning sexual-orientation discrimination in child placements “effectively imposes a ‘religious test’” on the right to provide adoption services. The group says it hasn’t gotten any complaints from gay couples, whom they refer to other adoption agencies.


3. They Help the Pregnant. No One Helped Them.. Planned Parenthood Is Accused of Mistreating Pregnant Employees.

By Natalie Kitroeff and Jessica Silver-Greenberg, The New York Times, December 21, 2018, Pg. A1

Discrimination against pregnant women and new mothers remains widespread in the American workplace. It is so pervasive that even organizations that define themselves as champions of women are struggling with the problem.

That includes Planned Parenthood, which has been accused of sidelining, ousting or otherwise handicapping pregnant employees, according to interviews with more than a dozen current and former employees.

In interviews and legal documents, women at Planned Parenthood and other organizations with a feminist bent described discrimination that violated federal or state laws — managers considering pregnancy in hiring decisions, for example, or denying rest breaks recommended by a doctor.

In other cases, the bias was more subtle. Many women said they were afraid to announce a pregnancy at work, sensing they would be seen as abandoning their colleagues.

Some of those employers saw accommodating expecting mothers as expensive and inconvenient. Others were unsympathetic to workers seeking special treatment.


4. Chicago archbishop to have leading role in sex abuse reforms.

By Jeff Karoub, The Associated Press, December 21, 2018, 12:11

The Catholic archbishop of Chicago, who was hand-picked by the pope to help organize an upcoming Vatican summit on clergy sex abuse, will have a leading role in the church’s effort to seek reforms, including the response to new allegations from the Illinois attorney general.

For his part, Cupich said he was disappointed after the Vatican told U.S. bishops last month not to vote on proposed new measures to investigate sexual misconduct or cover-ups within their ranks, even taking the step of coming up with a proposal himself. The Holy See wanted to delay any vote until after a global summit set for Feb. 21 to Feb. 24, raising its stakes considerably.

However, it is unlikely that such a diverse group of church leaders, including some who represent churches that continue to deny or downplay the scandal, will over four days come up with any universal proposals that come close to the accountability norms that U.S. bishops were seeking. Cahill expects a “hard sell” with a lot of bishops.


5. Pope to abusers: ‘Submit to human justice, prepare for divine justice’. 

By John L. Allen Jr., Editor, Crux, December 21, 2018

Pope Francis on Friday directly addressed perpetrators of clerical sexual abuse, telling them to “convert and hand yourself over to human justice, and prepare for divine justice.”

The Church, Francis said, is “firmly committed to eliminating the evil of abuse, which cries for vengeance to the Lord, to the God who is always mindful of the suffering experienced by many minors because of clerics and consecrated persons: abuses of power and conscience and sexual abuse.”

The pontiff also thanked media personnel who’ve brought such abuses to light.

“I myself would like to give heartfelt thanks to those media professionals who were honest and objective and sought to unmask these predators and to make their victims’ voices heard,” Francis said.

“How many Christians even now bear the burden of persecution, marginalization, discrimination and injustice throughout our world,” the pope said. “Yet they continue courageously to embrace death rather than deny Christ.”

The speech to the curia began a busy Christmas season for Pope Francis. On Monday he’ll celebrate the Church’s traditional “midnight Mass” marking the Christmas feast, and on Tuesday he’s deliver the annual Urbi et Orbi blessing, which typically features a 360-degree review of the global situation.


6. Discretion may be better part of valor on honors, awards for popes. 

By John L. Allen Jr., Editor, Crux, December 21, 2018

Pope Francis on Thursday met Nadia Murad, the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize winner. Murad is an Iraqi Yazidi who was held as a sex slave by ISIS forces when they occupied northern Iraq in 2014, and today she serves as a voice for victims of human rights abuses, especially against women.

The Peace Prize announcement came on Oct. 5, and unlike in years past, this time around there wasn’t a great deal of buzz about Francis as a candidate. During the St. John Paul II years, it was more or less an annual routine that the pope’s name would be bandied about as a candidate for weeks in the run-up to the announcement, but he’d never actually win.

That tradition has been revived to some extent under Francis, who’s also been touted as a potential Nobel laureate on several occasions.

Though one can certainly understand why these pontiffs drew serious consideration, there’s actually a strong case to be made that the Nobel Prize shouldn’t go to a pope as a matter of principle – and ironically enough, it’s not that different than the argument for not naming popes as saints.

As a final consideration, it’s a safe bet that none of the popes of recent memory really cared whether they drew special honors during their lifetimes, and all probably would have been the first to insist they were unworthy of sainthood after death.

In other words, perhaps the awards and honors, whether of a secular or ecclesiastical sort, might be best left to others, allowing popes to fall back on what is, after all, not such a bad form of recognition in itself – to wit, being elected pope.