1. Pope Decries ‘Cancer’ of Plotting and Pride in Vatican: Following a year of friction with several top officials, pontiff rebukes “betrayers of trust…corrupted by ambition or vainglory”.

By Francis X. Rocca, The Wall Street Journal, December 22, 2017, Pg. A10

The pope used his pre-Christmas address, similar to a State of the Union, to decry what he described as a cancer of plotting, pride and ambition among Vatican officials, which he said was holding back reform in the highest echelons of the Catholic Church.

The pope made his remarks to the heads of the Vatican bureaucracy, officially known as the Roman Curia, following a year marked by the acrimonious departure of one of his highest-ranking subordinates and friction with several other officials past and present.

The pope has turned his pre-Christmas speech to the heads of Vatican offices, a tradition which he inherited from his predecessors, into an annual report card on their performance.


2. Callista Gingrich Becomes Trump’s Envoy to Pope as Differences Mount.

By Reuters, December 22, 2017, 6:39 AM

Callista Gingrich, wife of the former speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, on Friday became U.S. ambassador to the Vatican, which is at odds with Washington over immigration, climate change and Jerusalem.

The U.S. embassy said in a statement that the new ambassador “looks forward to working with the Holy See to defend human rights, advance religious freedom, combat human trafficking, and to seek peaceful solutions to crises around the world”.


3. Why the Vatican thought Law’s funeral Mass was the right thing to do.

By John L. Allen Jr., Editor, Crux, December 22, 2017

As Cardinal Bernard Law received the customary funeral Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica on Thursday for a deceased cardinal, the question in many quarters in the United States was very simple: “Why?”

“Don’t these guys get it?” some Americans wondered, finding the idea of the pope himself saying prayers at the funeral to be an untoward sign of respect for a man who had become the public face of the child sexual abuse scandals in the Church.

Without pretending to adjudicate the rights and wrongs of the situation, here are four things to think about vis-à-vis the Vatican sendoff for Law.

First, despite the routine funeral Mass on Thursday, this really wasn’t business as usual.

Whenever a well-known cardinal dies, gushing tributes usually follow in official media outlets, such as L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican’s own daily newspaper, and Avvenire, the widely read newspaper of the Italian bishops’ conference. Generally, too, senior Church officials go on television to applaud the life and legacy of the late cardinal, enthusing over what a dedicated servant of the Church he was.

There’s been almost none of that this time around, signifying that Vatican officials do understand that this isn’t just any cardinal, and that public shows of affection or enthusiasm would be hurtful not only to victims but to all those scarred by the abuse scandals.

Second, however, and perhaps equally important, is this fact: Many in the Vatican don’t like being told what to do by Americans.

Third, of course, there’s the fact that whatever else he may have been, Law was a cardinal of the Catholic Church, and from the Vatican’s point of view, he’s entitled to the same funeral rites everyone else gets.

Finally, there’s the question of how Francis understood what he was doing on Thursday when he pronounced the prescribed prayers for Law’s ultimate commendation and valediction.

Fundamentally, Francis is a “Pope of Mercy.” His very motto as pope, which is the same as his motto as the Archbishop of Buenos Aires, is miserando atque eligendo, or “choosing through the eyes of mercy.” This is a pope who believes in forgiveness, mercy, and the tenderness of God even in regard to the greatest sinners more than almost anything else.

As a result, Francis no doubt understood the funeral Mass as an act of mercy, whatever his personal judgment of Law and his record on the abuse scandals may have been.

For all those reasons, holding the funeral Mass likely struck most people in the Vatican as the right thing to do – as did, it would seem, downplaying it as much as possible, in recognition of the fact that it wasn’t just any cardinal whose remains were being placed in front of God’s final verdict.


4. Law’s death creates delicate tightrope act for U.S. Catholic leaders.

By Christopher White, National Correspondent, Crux, December 22, 2017

At a press conference in Boston on Wednesday, Cardinal Sean O’Malley was asked whether he believed Cardinal Bernard Law, his predecessor who became the public face of the Church’s child sexual abuse scandals, would be welcomed into heaven.

Law died in Rome on Wednesday, and is largely remembered for his damning cover-up of clergy sexual abuse.

O’Malley told reporters that he hoped everyone would be welcomed into heaven – while also adding that he was not the one to judge. He also said that there was more to Law than his mistakes – a means of acknowledging the obvious, while also pulling a page from Shakespeare in an effort to perhaps signal that discretion is the better part of valor.

While Law’s death did not exactly elicit the sounds of silence that some had predicted, and indeed, some had even hoped for, it was by no means the usual fanfare that typically surrounds the death of a United States cardinal.

Besides the official statements from the USCCB and O’Malley, the only other high profile statement to be released on Wednesday came from Bishop Christopher Coyne of Burlington, Vermont who served as the principal spokesman for the Archdiocese of Boston in the immediate years after Law’s sexual abuse cover-up came to light.

The response to Law’s death has been nothing short of a delicate tightrope act of witnessing to both the Christian hope of resurrection in death and great mercy in light of grave sins, while also duly acknowledging the continued pain of the clergy sexual abuse crisis – the most cancerous manifestation in the Roman Catholic Church, according to some observers, since the Protestant Reformation.

Yet, perhaps in the public penitential act of the past few days – in an effort to acknowledge what was done, and also what the Church failed to do – what Church leaders have signaled is a pastoral understanding that victims and mourners alike deserve consideration at a time like this, each in their own moment of grief and anguish.