1. Murder Case Stirs Debate On Abortion And New Law.

By Ashley Southall, The New York Times, February 11, 2019, Pg. A17

As Democrats in New York last month celebrated Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s signing of a law expanding abortion rights in the state, anti-abortion campaigners predicted it would eliminate criminal penalties for violence that ends women’s pregnancies.

The debate resurfaced over the weekend after the Queens district attorney, Richard A. Brown, cited the Reproductive Health Act as the reason for dropping an abortion charge against a man who the police say fatally stabbed his former girlfriend when she was 14 weeks pregnant.

The man, Anthony Hobson, 48, was arrested and charged on Friday with second-degree murder for the Feb. 3 attack on Jennifer Irigoyen, 35.

Meris Campbell, a spokeswoman for the district attorney, said prosecutors dropped a second-degree abortion charge after learning that the Reproductive Health Act, which was signed on Jan. 22, had stripped the crime from the state penal code. The New York Post’s article about the decision roused many who are against abortion.

“Thanks to the #RHA, it’s open season on pregnant women in New York,” Dennis Poust, a spokesman for the New York State Catholic Conference, wrote on Twitter.


2. Ahead of pope’s abuse summit, expert warns there’s no ‘one size fits all’ fix. 

By Elise Harris and John L. Allen Jr., Crux, February 11, 2019

A leading expert in the field of child protection has said that while one goal of the upcoming Vatican summit on abuse prevention is to get the world’s bishops on the same page, a uniform solution to the clerical abuse issue doesn’t exist.

Speaking to Crux, Jesuit Father Hans Zollner said he believes the reason for calling the Feb. 21-24 anti-abuse summit is because “this is a very urgent, very challenging moment for the Church and an urgent question which the Holy Father has made a priority for himself and for the Church, by calling for this unique meeting.”

Zollner, head of the Center for Child Protection at Rome’s Pontifical Gregorian University and a member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, is a member of the organizing committee for the February meeting along with Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago; Cardinal Oswald Gracias from India and Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta, the Vatican’s former top prosecutor of sex abuse crimes.

The heads of all bishop’s conferences throughout the world will attend the gathering, as well as members of Eastern Catholic Churches and religious superiors.


3. Vatican tries to rein in expectations for sexual abuse summit.

By Chico Harlan, The Washington Post, February 10, 2019, Pg. A19

Pope Francis is preparing to convene an unprecedented summit on sex abuse this month, widely viewed as among the most pivotal moments of his papacy, but the Vatican is cautioning not to expect too much.

The Holy See’s press office released a statement calling the meeting just one stage in a 15-year journey.

The pope described his goal as educating bishops on the problem of abuse and how properly to handle it — which advocates say the church has talked about for years.

Vatican watchers say it is unclear whether the church can emerge from the summit with the kind of concrete policymaking reforms that have long been urged by advocates. Such reforms would include changes in canon law or new mechanisms that aim to hold accountable bishops who cover up abuse.

The Vatican has urged the bishops coming to Rome to meet beforehand with survivors of clerical abuse, “to learn first-hand the suffering that they have endured.” It also announced the list of people organizing the event. But other details remain undisclosed, including the speakers and topics that will be discussed.


4. Christian woman held despite her acquittal.

By Reuters, The Washington Post, February 10, 2019, Pg. A17

Christian woman acquitted of blasphemy in October after spending eight years on death row in Pakistan has been transferred from a secret location near the capital to another in Karachi, but is still unable to leave the country for Canada, a friend said Saturday. 

Aman Ullah, who spoke to Asia Bibi by telephone Friday, said the 54-year-old Bibi is being held in a room in the southern port city. He said Bibi, who faces death threats from radical Islamists, is frustrated and frightened, uncertain of when she will be able to leave Pakistan. 

Bibi’s ordeal began in 2009 when two fellow farmworkers refused to drink from the same container as a Christian woman. There was a quarrel, and the two Muslim women later accused Bibi of blasphemy. 


5. Nun’s Charge of Rapes by a Bishop Shocks India.

By Maria Abi-Habib and Suhasini Raj, The New York Times, February 10, 2019, Pg. A1

The bishop, who has maintained his innocence, will be charged and face trial by a special prosecutor on accusations of rape and intimidation, the police investigating the case said. But the church acknowledged the nun’s accusations only after five of her fellow nuns mutinied and publicly rallied to her side to draw attention to her yearlong quest for justice, despite what they described as heavy pressure to remain silent.

The case in India, in the southern state of Kerala, is part of a larger problem in the church that Pope Francis addressed on Tuesday for the first time after decades of silence from the Vatican. He acknowledged that sexual abuse of nuns by clerics is a continuing problem in the church. 

At a time when church attendance is low in the West, and empty parishes and monasteries are being shuttered across Europe and America, the Vatican increasingly relies on places like India to keep the faith growing.

“India’s clergy and nuns are hugely important to the Catholic Church in the West. The enthusiasm of Christians in Asia stands in stark contrast to the lower-temperature religion in the West,” said Diarmaid MacCulloch, a professor of church history at the University of Oxford.

But the scandal in Kerala is dividing India’s Catholics, who number about 20 million despite being a relatively small minority of a vast population.

The nuns are now filing multiple civil cases against church officials in India, claiming they tried to intimidate them to drop the case or ignored the rape accusations. The nuns are still at St. Francis, ignoring repeated orders issued by church authorities last month to disband. On Saturday, with the nuns planning another public protest, the church revoked those orders — giving the nuns a small victory.


6. Gosnell: When Art Collides with Reality and Exposes the Truth.

By John Fund, National Review Online, February 10, 2019, 6:37 PM

Rarely has a new movie become available at a time when the news made its subject matter timelier and more appropriate. Gosnell: The Trial of America’s Biggest Serial Killer is the true story of a doctor who went to prison for life in 2013 for stabbing several infants he had delivered alive inside his hellhole of an abortion clinic in Philadelphia. After being almost completely ignored by critics during its release last year, last week the movie went on sale in Walmart and on Amazon, where it is the No. 1 best-selling dramatic DVD. At the same time, infanticide became a key issue in major stories in Virginia and New York.

Gosnell director Nick Searcy wrote at TownHall that New York has now legalized almost everything that Gosnell and his aides did in Philadelphia: Gosnell was convicted of killing breathing infants who had already been born. It is now legal in New York to kill an infant who survives an abortion. Gosnell was convicted of allowing untrained and unlicensed medical personnel to perform abortions. It is now legal in New York for non-physicians or any “health professionals” to perform abortions. Gosnell was convicted of performing at least 21 late-term abortions past the legal limit of 24 weeks. It is now legal in New York to terminate a pregnancy up until the due date. In New York, there is no longer any such thing as a “late-term abortion.”

The movie about Gosnell’s crimes is based on a book by Irish-American journalists Phelim McAleer and Ann McElhinney. The screenplay is drawn almost entirely verbatim from the actual grand-jury testimony and Gosnell’s eventual trial. “It is a horrible story, not just because Gosnell kept intact, late-stage aborted fetuses in containers but because his clinic was protected by powerful political forces that allowed him to escape detection for years,” McAleer told me.


7. A simple defrocking won’t mean the McCarrick case is over. 

By John L. Allen Jr., Editor, Crux, February 10, 2019

Various news agencies have reported, and Crux has confirmed, that the Vatican will shortly announce a ruling in the case of former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, accused of sexual abuse of a 16-year-old boy more than 50 years ago as well as various incidents with adult priests and seminarians.

By all accounts, McCarrick will lose his clerical status, more commonly known as being “laicized” or “defrocked.” When that decision is involuntary, it’s considered the death penalty for a cleric in Church law, the most severe punishment that can be imposed for especially heinous offenses.

McCarrick already received an unusual sanction in July, when he became the first cardinal in a century to lose his red hat. Assuming the laicization happens, he would also be the highest-ranking Catholic cleric in modern times to suffer that penalty.

Here’s the thing, however: Even if McCarrick is defrocked, that hardly would mean his case is over.

To be sure, the specter of a former cardinal suffering the Church’s ultimate penalty would send an important signal ahead of the pope’s summit, suggesting that Francis is committed to a “zero tolerance” policy no matter who’s involved.

In all honesty, however, all that would accomplish is confirming something that most observers believe should have been settled a long time ago: That, in the words of St. John Paul II, “there is no place in the priesthood and religious life for those who would harm the young.”


8. Pro-Infanticide Catholics Need the Church’s Strongest Medicinal Penalties.

By The Editors, National Catholic Register, February 10, 2019

On Jan. 22, a ghoulish celebration was held in different parts of New York state. Cheers and applause accompanied New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s signing of the so-called Reproductive Health Act that had just been approved by the state Legislature.

The governor deliberately timed his signature on the bill to the 46th anniversary of the infamous Supreme Court Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion and then ordered that One World Trade Center and other structures be lit up in pink to “celebrate this achievement and shine a bright light forward for the rest of the nation to follow.”

In a radio interview, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, a physician, tried to defend the bill with what he apparently thought was a compassionate pledge that, should a child survive an abortion, “the infant would be kept comfortable. [And] the infant would be resuscitated if that’s what the mother and the family desired, and then a discussion would ensue.”

Authorities in Church law and our shepherds should assess closely and with courage what penalties and sanctions need to be imposed upon Cuomo and similar Catholic politicians who reject so publicly Church teaching, become the source of confusion and scandal, and lead other Catholics into their same obstinate error and sin.

With respect to Cardinal Dolan’s comments, excommunication should, indeed, not be a weapon, but it most certainly is medicinal, a necessary step to call the faithful back from the darkness. Surely a Catholic who embraces infanticide and celebrates it publicly should be subject to the strongest of medicinal penalties from the Church. They might include excommunication, but they might likewise apply Canon 915, which declares that those “obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to Holy Communion.” This was an idea advocated by Bishop Thomas Daly of Spokane, Washington.

To shrink away at this moment is unthinkable for Catholic institutions already battered by the clergy sexual-abuse crisis.

As Msgr. Pope warned, “To fail to issue all possible canonical penalties at this point would, to my mind, show the Church to be irrelevant and a laughingstock.”


9. Vatican ex-doctrine chief pens manifesto amid pope criticism.

By Nicole Winfield, The Associated Press, February 9, 2019, 1:56 AM

The Vatican’s former doctrine chief has penned a “manifesto of faith” to remind Catholics of basic tenets of belief amid what he says is “growing confusion” in the church today.

Cardinal Gerhard Mueller didn’t name Pope Francis in his four-page manifesto, released late Friday. But the document was nevertheless a clear manifestation of conservative criticism of Francis’ emphasis on mercy and accompaniment versus a focus on repeating Catholic morals and doctrine during the previous two papacies.

The manifesto was the latest jab at Francis from the conservative wing of the church. Already, four other cardinals have called on the Jesuit pope to clarify his outreach to divorced and civilly remarried Catholics.


10. Anti-Abortion Activists Still Feel They Have the Momentum.

By Elizabeth Dias and Timothy Williams, The New York Times, February 9, 2019, Pg. A14

Despite a temporary setback at the Supreme Court on Thursday night, the anti-abortion movement nationwide is pursuing its best chance in years to aggressively curb abortion access, and with a bench it believes remains in its favor.

For years, anti-abortion activists have advanced a long-term and wide-ranging strategy to control state legislatures and governorships, in order to chip away at abortion rights. The Louisiana law, which was blocked by the court and would have limited access to abortion providers, is just one in a succession of measures that have passed in recent years in several states that could soon make their way to the nation’s highest court.

“The more you kick the can down the road, the more you are looking at a better court to make decisions,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, the president of the Susan B. Anthony List, an anti-abortion group. “There are so many cases making their way to the court that this is not the last word. The law is being remade right now, and the courts are being remade, all at the same time.”


11. Late-term abortions at center of a changing conversation, The issue tends to be where reproductive rights advocates and abortion foes find common ground.

By Ariana Eunjung Cha, The Washington Post, February 9, 2019, Pg. A4

President Trump in his State of the Union address on Tuesday called on Congress to make late-term abortions illegal. His characterizations of the procedure and recent state legislative efforts were misleading, but the comments highlight a shift in the conversation about abortion in recent years.

The focus of the debate has moved from reproductive freedom to how to balance the rights of a pregnant woman against those of her fetus. And nowhere is this change more apparent than in Americans’ ambivalent feelings toward abortions that take place later in pregnancy.

According to a Gallup poll conducted in May 2018, a clear majority of Americans — 60 percent — said abortion should be legal in the first trimester. However, support fell to 13 percent when participants were asked about terminations in the third trimester.


12. Spotlight returns to Roberts on abortion.

By Lydia Wheeler and Jessie Hellmann, The Hill Online, February 9, 2019, 6:00 AM

Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts disappointed conservatives Thursday by siding with the court’s liberal wing to block a Louisiana abortion law that’s almost identical to the Texas one he voted to uphold in 2016.

Roberts has become the fulcrum of the high court since swing voter Justice Anthony Kennedy retired in July, catapulting him into the spotlight as the deciding justice on hot button social issues.

With Thursday’s decision on the Louisiana law, which requires abortion providers to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital, Roberts has raised doubts among some conservatives about whether they have a reliable conservative majority after President Trump‘s successful appointments of Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh.

“It does give me a little pause,” said Travis Weber, vice president for policy at the Family Research Council, who questioned if Roberts’s vote for staying the abortion law was influenced by the politics of the debate.

“I do think at times the justices and other federal judges will factor that into their decisions and they shouldn’t,” he said. “They should decide the cases according to the law.”


13. Vatican to Rule Next Week on Defrocking of Disgraced U.S. Cardinal: Sources.

By Reuters, February 8, 2019

Vatican officials will meet next week to decide the fate of disgraced former U.S. cardinal Theodore McCarrick over allegations of sexual abuse, Vatican sources said on Friday.

Vatican sources told Reuters last month that McCarrick will almost certainly be dismissed from the priesthood, which would make him the highest profile Roman Catholic figure to be defrocked in modern times.

McCarrick has already received one of the most severe punishments short of defrocking. When the pope accepted his resignation as cardinal last July, he also ordered him to refrain from public ministry and to live in seclusion, prayer and penitence.

The Vatican summit later this month offers a chance for Pope Francis to respond to criticism from victims of abuse that he has stumbled in his handling of the crisis and has not done enough to make bishops accountable.


14. Cardinal Müller Issues ‘Manifesto of Faith’.

By Edward Pentin, National Catholic Register, February 8, 2019

Cardinal Gerhard Müller has issued a forthright “manifesto of faith,” calling primarily on Church leaders to fulfil their obligation to lead people to salvation in the face of “growing confusion” about Church doctrine. 

In a four-page public testimony (see below) released in multiple languages Feb. 8, and whose title is taken from the Gospel of John “Let not your heart be troubled!”, the prefect emeritus of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith reasserts many key teachings of the faith, reminding clergy and laity it is up to “shepherds” to “guide those entrusted to them on the path of salvation.” 

“Today, many Christians are no longer even aware of the basic teachings of the Faith,” the German cardinal laments, “so there is a growing danger of missing the path to eternal life.” 

Written in response to requests from “many bishops, priests, religious and lay people,” the cardinal’s testimony comes as the Church awaits the Feb. 21-24 Vatican summit on clergy sexual abuse, and following statements and documents from the Pope down that many practicing faithful have, at times, found confusing, disorienting and inconsistent with the Church’s teaching.