1. Sex-Abuse Crisis Splits Vatican, Cardinal O’Malley has met resistance in his fight to toughen Pope Francis’ response.

By Francis X. Rocca, The Wall Street Journal, February 15, 2019, Pg. A1

Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston, chief adviser to Pope Francis on protecting children from sexual abuse, called a meeting with top papal aides in 2017, concerned the Vatican wasn’t living up to its promise of “zero tolerance.”

An appeals panel set up by the pope had reduced the punishments of a number of Catholic priests found guilty of abusing minors. In some cases, the panel canceled their dismissal from the priesthood and gave them short suspensions instead.

“If this gets out, it will cause a scandal,” Cardinal O’Malley told Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin, in effect the pope’s prime minister, and other Vatican officials, according to a person present. No action was taken to address the issue.

The Catholic Church’s handling of the long-running crisis over clerical sex abuse has exposed fissures within its hierarchy. Activists and some church leaders hoped the Vatican would take a tougher stance on abuse under Pope Francis—and thought a meeting next week at a global summit of bishops would make progress toward that goal. 

Instead, the opposite has happened, deepening the gap between the Vatican and U.S. church leaders, who have pushed for a more stringent response. No clearer is the rift than in the relationship between Pope Francis and Cardinal O’Malley, a Capuchin friar who likes to be called “Cardinal Sean.”


2. Governor Backs N.J. Sex-Abuse Measure.

By Joseph De Avila, The Wall Street Journal, February 15, 2019, Pg. A11

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy on Thursday threw his support behind proposed legislation that would expand the statute of limitations in civil cases for sexual-assault victims, a measure long opposed by the state’s Roman Catholic Church.

The bill would create a one-time, two-year window for pursuing legal action for anyone previously barred from filing a civil complaint. The proposed legislation would give them the right to bring litigation between Dec. 1, 2019 and Nov. 30, 2021.

The current statute of limitations for civil cases is two years, but because victims sometimes suppress their memories of such incidents for years or don’t connect their psychological injuries to the abuse, the legislation proposes a much longer period for filing complaints.

“The Catholic Bishops of New Jersey are committed to keeping our teaching, worship and ministry spaces safe for everyone, especially children,” said Patrick Brannigan, executive director of the New Jersey Catholic Conference, which represents the state’s Catholic bishops. “All of our dioceses have committed to assisting victims of abuse whenever and however we can.”

Mr. Brannigan said the New Jersey Catholic Conference supports the elimination of the statute of limitations for future crimes for both perpetrators and institutions. The conference also backs eliminating the statute of limitations for prior offenses for perpetrators only.


3. A Lesson in Anti-Semitism, Look across the pond to see where the Democrats could end up.

The Wall Street Journal, Pg. A16, Review & Outlook

Bipartisan support for Israel has long been a feature of American politics. But as the Democratic Party moves further left, it is increasingly home to vociferous anti-Israel voices. An anti-Semitism crisis in the United Kingdom’s Labour Party shows what happens when a political party doesn’t rebut such views.

This is a lesson for U.S. Democrats tempted to excuse anti-Semitism in their ranks as over-enthusiastic political opposition to Israeli policies from neophyte politicians. That’s how Labour chief Jeremy Corbyn got his start, attacking Israel from Parliament’s back benches. After hailing Hamas and Hezbollah representatives as “our friends” and attending a wreath-laying at the graves of 1972 Munich terrorists, Mr. Corbyn and Labour tried last summer to blur the line between anti-Israel views and anti-Semitism when adopting a definition of the latter for use in party disciplinary matters.

Some American Democrats admire Mr. Corbyn. Freshman Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez crowed on Twitter earlier this month about a long and inspiring phone call she had with the Labour leader. American Democratic leaders seem to understand how dangerous such rhetoric is—but then so did Mr. Corbyn’s Labour predecessors who didn’t take his ideological challenge seriously. Democrats need to make an affirmative case for supporting the Jewish state, lest anti-Israeli politics evolve into outright anti-Semitism.


4. Trump, Conway speak with pro-lifers over Democrats’ abortion bills.

By Dave Boyer, The Washington Times, February 15, 2019, A2

President Trump held a conference call from the Oval Office on Thursday with thousands of pro-life activists about the “chilling disregard for life” in some states controlled by Democrats.

Following up on his State of the Union address that criticized late-term abortion measures in Virginia and New York state, Mr. Trump and White House counselor Kellyanne Conway spoke with about 4,500 participants on the call, the White House said.

Mr. Trump recently told Congress in a letter that he will veto any legislation that weakens “existing federal protections of innocent life.”


5. The Vatican’s Gay Overlords, A sensational new book mines the Catholic Church’s sexual secrets. Will right-wing homophobes exploit it?

By Frank Bruni, New York Times Online, February 15, 2019

Marveling at the mysterious sanctum that his new book explores, the French journalist Frédéric Martel writes that “even in San Francisco’s Castro” there aren’t “quite as many gays.”

He’s talking about the Vatican. And he’s delivering a bombshell.

Although the book’s publishers have kept it under tight wraps, I obtained a copy in advance of its release next Thursday. 

It includes the claim that about 80 percent of the male Roman Catholic clergy who work at the Vatican, around the pope, are gay. It contends that the more showily homophobic a Vatican official is, the more likely he belongs to that crowd, and that the higher up the chain of command you go, the more gays you find. And not all of them are celibate. Not by a long shot.

I’m supposed to cheer, right? I’m an openly gay man. I’m a sometime church critic. 

The sourcing of much of “In the Closet of the Vatican” is vague, and other Vatican experts told me that the 80 percent figure is neither knowable nor credible.

He says that “In the Closet of the Vatican” is informed by about 1,500 interviews over four years and the contributions of scores of researchers and other assistants. I covered the Vatican for The Times for nearly two years, and the book has a richness of detail that’s persuasive. It’s going to be widely discussed and hotly debated.

All else aside, the book speaks to the enormous and seemingly growing tension between a church that frequently vilifies and marginalizes gay men and a priesthood dense with them. “This fact hangs in the air as a giant, unsustainable paradox,” wrote Andrew Sullivan, who is Catholic and gay, in an excellent cover story for New York magazine last month.


6. The Health 202: Trump has done much for abortion foes and they love him for it.

By Paige Winfield Cunningham, Washington Post Online, February 15, 2019, 7:43 AM

Abortion foes are one group standing enthusiastically with President Trump as he seeks reelection next year, delighted the president has prioritized their cause over his two years in office and freshly invigorated by his eagerness to describe abortion in strong terms and call for its end.

Trump has gone after abortion providers and access to the procedure through agency regulations, judicial appointments and budget requests. He most recently using strong language to describe Virginia and New York measures making it easier to obtain abortions late in pregnancy, calling on Congress to pass antiabortion legislation and even personally confronting Democrats over the issue.

Earlier in the day, the president and aides met with top antiabortion leader Marjorie Dannenfelser and several other activists who call themselves “abortion survivors.” On a call with reporters, Dannenfelser described Trump as “the most pro-life-acting president who has ever been.”

“I can say walking out of that Oval Office today, this is a deeply-held conviction,” Dannenfelser said. “Yes, it is a politically smart move he’s made in advancing human rights in this way. But it’s also the right thing to do.”


7. Vatican’s envoy to France facing ‘sexual aggression’ probe.

By Samuel Petrequin, The Associated Press, February 15, 2019, 7:22 AM

The Paris prosecutor’s office has opened an investigation into alleged “sexual aggression” by Luigi Ventura, the Vatican’s envoy to France, according to a French judicial official.

According to Le Monde, Ventura, who has been holding the post within the Holy See’s global diplomatic corps since 2009, is suspected of having sexually molested a young male employee at the City Hall during a ceremony of wishes on Jan. 17.

Ventura, who was born in northern Italy near the city of Brescia, turned 74 in December.

Ventura is the third Vatican diplomat accused of sexual wrongdoing. In June last year, the Vatican tribunal convicted Monsignor Carlo Capella of possession and distribution of child pornography and sentenced him to five years in prison. In 2013, the Vatican charged its then-ambassador to the Dominican Republic, Monsignor Jozef Wesolowski, with sexually abusing young boys. Wesolowski was defrocked by the Vatican’s church court, but he died before the Vatican’s criminal trial got underway.


8. Follow-up will be key to pope’s abuse summit, Scicluna says. 

By Inés San Martín, Crux, February 15, 2019

[This is part one of Inés San Martín’s interview with Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta, one of the Church’s leading reformers on the issue of clerical sexual abuse. Part two will appear on Monday.]

Big things come in small packages, and such is the case with Archbishop Charles Scicluna, of Malta, who, despite his diminutive size, has a huge reputation when it comes to addressing the issue of clerical sexual abuse of children.

Formerly the Vatican’s top prosecutor of abuse crimes, Scicluna today divides his time between Malta and Rome, where he serves as adjunct secretary of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith. Since 2001, that office has had lead responsibility for cases of clergy accused of abusing minors.

Credited with the investigation that exposed the crimes of Father Marcial Maciel, founder of the Legion of Christ, last year Scicluna was hand-picked by Pope Francis to look into the situation of the Catholic Church in Chile, where seven bishops who’ve been accused of either cover-up or of abuse themselves have resigned.

Speaking with Crux just before Francis convenes a Feb. 21-24 summit of presidents of bishops’ conferences from around the world to discuss clerical abuse, Scicluna addressed widespread frustration over the fact that to this day, there are still bishops who don’t understand the scope of the problem.

“We have to realize that there are constraints and circumstances of culture, geopolitical, social and ecclesial that mean we’re not at the same point in different parts of the world,” he said.


9. Why Does the Catholic Church Keep Failing on Sexual Abuse?, Cardinal Seán O’Malley has spent decades cleaning up after pedophile priests. Now he’s once again found himself in the middle of a crisis.

By Emma Green, The Atlantic, February 14, 2019, 5:00 AM

A few years after seán o’malley took over the Archdiocese of Boston in 2003, at the peak of the clergy sexual-abuse crisis in America, he led novenas of penance at nine of the city’s most affected parishes. At each church he visited, he lay facedown on the floor before the altar, begging for forgiveness. This is how O’Malley has spent his life in ministry: cleaning up after pedophile priests and their apologists, and serving as the Catholic Church’s public face of repentance and reform.

Possibly more than any other cleric on Earth, O’Malley understands how deeply the Church’s errors on sexual abuse have damaged its mission and reputation. Today, he is one of Pope Francis’s closest advisers, the only American on a small committee of cardinals who meet regularly at the Vatican. He runs the pope’s special commission on the protection of minors. And he is a member of the influential Vatican office responsible for preserving and defending Catholic doctrine. He believes that the Church has changed, can change, and will change. But as the world’s top bishops prepare to meet later this month for an unprecedented summit on sexual abuse at the Vatican, O’Malley has found himself frustrated, unable to push reforms through at the top.

In an interview on a recent cold morning in Boston, the cardinal spoke about the progress he believes the Church, and Pope Francis, have made in recent years, and what’s still lacking. He detailed his proposal to establish Vatican tribunals to deal with bishops accused of wrongdoing—one of the major problems the Church has yet to address. The pope “was convinced to do it another way,” O’Malley said. “We’re still waiting for the procedures to be clearly articulated.” He often described problems in the Church passively, without directly assigning agency or fault. For example: American bishops have asked the Vatican for an investigation into Theodore McCarrick, the former cardinal who was consistently elevated despite widely acknowledged rumors of sexual misconduct, until he was removed from ministry last summer. After months of requests, an investigation appears to be under way. “Certainly, many of us have personally expressed to the Holy Father and the secretary of state the need to do something quickly,” O’Malley said. “I keep getting assurances. But we’re waiting for the documents to be produced.”


10. Kentucky Senate passes fetal heartbeat abortion bill. 

By Bruce Schreiner, The Associated Press, February 14, 2019, 5:44 PM

Kentucky lawmakers heard the beating heart of a woman’s unborn baby Thursday as they advanced a bill that would ban most abortions in the state once a fetal heartbeat is detected.

The state Senate voted 31-6 to pass the measure, continuing an aggressive push to restrict abortion since Republicans consolidated their hold on Kentucky’s legislature starting in 2017.

Earlier Thursday when a committee reviewed the bill, a pregnant woman let a roomful of people hear the heartbeat of her unborn baby via an electronic monitor. The woman, April Lanham, who lives in the district of the bill’s lead sponsor, was at the witness table in the committee room.

“That child in her womb is a living human being,” Republican Sen. Matt Castlen, the bill sponsor, said later. “And all living human beings have a right to life.”


11. Producer of ‘Silent Scream’ anti-abortion film dies.

By John Rogers, The Associated Press, February 14, 2019 8:48 PM

Donald S. Smith, who produced the controversial anti-abortion film “The Silent Scream” and, with help from Ronald Reagan’s White House, distributed copies to every member of Congress and the Supreme Court, has died at 94.

Beverly Cielnicky, president of Crusade For Life told The Associated Press on Thursday that Smith died Jan. 30 in Wenatchee, Washington, following a bout with pneumonia.

He had remained active until shortly before his death, Cielnicky said, recently completing a book titled “The Power of Jesus Christ” that he finished by dictation after his eyesight began to fail.

He is likely best remembered, however, for “The Silent Scream,” the 1984 documentary he wrote and produced.

The 30-minute film depicts through ultrasound the abortion of an 11-week-old fetus. As the abortion proceeds, a narrator describes the instruments used to carry it out and maintains that the fetus’ movements indicate it is emitting a “silent scream.”