1. Vatican Hopes Meeting on Child Sex Abuse Will Be a Turning Point.

By Jason Horowitz and Elisabetta Povoledo, The New York Times, February 19, 2019, Pg. A8

In the decades since the crisis of clerical sexual abuse of children first exploded, the Roman Catholic church has struggled to resolve a scourge that has eroded its credibility, driven away the faithful and stained its priests, bishops, cardinals and popes.

On Monday, as the Vatican prepared for a meeting that will include Pope Francis and the presidents of the world’s bishops conferences, the church was still looking for a way forward.

“My hope is that people see this as a turning point,” Cardinal Blase Cupich, the archbishop of Chicago, said at a Vatican news conference. He said he hoped the meeting, titled “The Protection of Minors in the Church,” would be a “rallying moment” to make sure all the bishops were on the same page

Many conservatives in the church have blamed homosexuality for the clerical sex abuse of minors, a critique most notably aired by Carlo Maria Viganò, the former papal ambassador to the United Nations, who last year accused the pope of covering up abuse.

It has been a difficult issue for Pope Francis, who has counseled tolerance of gays. He heads a priesthood with a high proportion of gay men who, whether or not they obey the command to be celibate, dare not speak openly about their orientation.

In response to a question, Cardinal Cupich acknowledged that the crisis primarily involves “male on male sex abuse,” but he added that studies had for years demonstrated “that homosexuality in itself is not a cause” of abuse, and that it was a matter of opportunity and poor training.

Pope Francis has blamed the abuse of power by clerics, which he calls clericalism, as the root problem.


2. A Priest With Progeny? Church Has Guidelines for That.

By Jason Horowitz and Elisabetta Povoledo, The New York Times, February 19, 2019, Pg. A8

Now, the Vatican has confirmed, apparently for the first time, that its department overseeing the world’s priests has general guidelines for what to do when clerics break celibacy vows and father children.

“I can confirm that these guidelines exist,” the Vatican spokesman Alessandro Gisotti wrote in response to a query from The New York Times. “It is an internal document.”

As the Vatican prepares for an unprecedented meeting with the world’s bishops this week on the devastating child sexual abuse crisis, many people who feel they have been wronged by the church’s culture of secrecy and aversion to scandal will descend on Rome to press their cause.

There will be the victims of clerical child abuse. There will be nuns sexually assaulted by priests. And there will be children of priests, including Mr. Doyle, who is scheduled to meet privately in Rome with several prominent prelates.


3. Accountability for clergy sex abuse, The Catholic Church is in need of far more than a ‘change of mindset.’

The Washington Post, February 19, 2019, Pg. A14, Editorial

In a recent letter to U.S. bishops, Pope Francis called for a “change of mindset” to regain credibility forfeited by the Catholic Church after nearly two decades of temporizing, equivocation and half-measures to address clerical sex abuse. In fact, the pontiff himself, whose response to the scandal has been a fog of mixed messages, would benefit from this advice. Just as important, as he prepares for a meeting of some 130 top bishops from around the world — the Holy See’s most wide-ranging attempt yet to grapple with the scandal — what is needed is a concrete blueprint that will shift the church toward a new era of accountability and transparency.

Those are among the stated goals of the meeting, called by the pope, of the presidents of the world’s Conferences of Catholic Bishops, scheduled for Feb. 21 to 24 in Rome. Yet, rather than identifying specific agenda items that would signal a no-nonsense new approach, the Vatican has tried to lower expectations. Francis says the meeting will be an occasion for deep “discernment.” New policies would help more.

A good start would be the establishment of a muscular new mechanism, including lay members of the church, that would enable the Vatican to investigate and remove bishops and other senior clerics implicated in covering up for pedophile priests. Even now, more than 17 years after revelations of systematic abuse and coverups first rocked the American church, the wall of impunity that has long protected bishops is only gradually starting to crack.

Dismayingly, senior Vatican officials have sought to downgrade expectations for this month’s bishops’ conference. A top organizer, Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta, said the meeting is no more than “a very important start of a global process which will take quite some time to perfect.” Comments like that seem tailor-made to defuse any sense of urgency. And if, after so many years, the church feels no urgency, then it cannot expect to stanch the hemorrhage of credibility and trust it has suffered.


4. High court has many options for reshaping ‘Roe’, At least 20 cases related to abortion are on track for review at top level.

By Ariana Eunjung Cha, The Washington Post, February 19, 2019, Pg. A2

The Supreme Court’s 5-to-4 vote this month to block a restrictive Louisiana abortion law from taking effect provided some measure of consolation to reproductive rights advocates who feared the court’s new conservative majority would act immediately to restrict access to the procedure.

But that relief is likely to be short lived. In the pipeline are at least 20 lawsuits, in various stages of judicial review, that have the potential to be decided in ways that could significantly change the rights laid out in the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling, and refined almost two decades later in Planned Parenthood v. Casey. The 1992 decision said a state may place restrictions on abortion as long as it does not create an “undue burden” on a woman’s right to abortion.

Most of the new cases involve challenges to state laws restricting access to the procedure. In Indiana, for example, abortion rights advocates sued to block a measure signed into law by then-Gov. Mike Pence (R) that required women to undergo an ultrasound, then wait 18 hours before having the procedure. The law also barred sex-selective abortions and abortions based on a prenatal diagnosis of fetal anomaly. In Alabama, the focus is on a law that would ban a common form of second-trimester abortion.

There is also a case awaiting a decision from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit involving a challenge to a Department of Health and Human Services policy preventing undocumented minors in federal custody from having abortions.


5. We Overcame a Grim Prenatal Prognosis, Doctors said our baby couldn’t survive birth. We tried something new, and it worked.

By Jaime Herrera Beutler, The Wall Street Journal, February 19, 2019, Pg. A15, Opinion
Ms. Herrera Beutler, a Republican, represents Washington’s Third Congressional District.

Radical legislation in New York and Virginia has brought late-term abortion into the spotlight. Advocates justify the practice on the ground that, as one put it, “terminations after 24 weeks are for severe fetal anomalies.” 

I have some personal perspective on the matter. In 2013, during my second term in Congress, my husband, Dan, and I were excited first-time parents when we went in for my 20-week ultrasound. We weren’t prepared for what we were told: Our unborn baby had no chance of survival. There were no kidneys. She had bilateral renal agenesis, also known as Potter syndrome, meaning she would either miscarry or suffocate at birth because lungs wouldn’t develop.

Being told that my wiggly, kicking baby would certainly die felt like hell screaming in my face, sucking all the air out of my lungs and leaving fear in its place. Our doctor told us that often when women get this news, they terminate the pregnancy.

Miraculously, our doctors were wrong. We tried something that had never been successful before: saline infusions in utero to mimic amniotic fluid. Our baby developed lungs even without kidneys—an impossible outcome to the medical world until that moment. Our doctors had given us their honest professional opinions: They hadn’t seen a baby with our daughter’s condition survive. But doctors aren’t infallible, and we’d never have known if we hadn’t tried.

Care, understanding and compassion are needed at every stage of a woman’s maternal journey. To me, that means empowering mothers to dwell in the realm of the possible, even if it’s never been tried.


6. Pope’s sex abuse prevention summit explained. 

By Nicole Winfield, The Associated Press, February 19, 2019, 5:46 AM

Pope Francis is hosting a four-day summit on preventing clergy sexual abuse, a high-stakes meeting designed to impress on Catholic bishops around the world that the problem is global and that there are consequences if they cover it up.

The meeting opening Thursday comes at a critical time for the church and Francis’ papacy, following the explosion of the scandal in Chile last year and renewed outrage in the United States over decades of cover-up that were exposed by the Pennsylvania grand jury report.

Here is a look at what’s in store for the summit.


The meeting is divided into three thematic days, with the final day — Sunday — devoted to Mass and a concluding address from the pope.

Testimony from survivors is interspersed throughout during moments of prayer, but there are no sessions dedicated to hearing their stories. Participants were told to meet with victims before coming to Rome to learn first-hand of their pain — and to drive home the idea that clergy sex abuse isn’t confined to certain parts of the world.


About 114 presidents of bishops conferences are expected, though at least two — Chilean Archbishop Santiago Silva and Costa Rican Archbishop Jose Rafael Quiros — are sending deputies because they themselves are implicated in covering up abuse.

The guest list includes 14 leaders from eastern rite churches, 12 religious superiors of men’s orders and 10 from women’s religious orders. About a dozen Vatican prefects, as well as a half-dozen of the pope’s cardinal advisers and a handful of others, round out the 190 participants.


Zollner has said he hopes the summit will result in the creation of task forces on each continent to help national bishops’ conferences develop guidelines to fight abuse and tend to victims.
The Vatican in 2011 told these conferences to draft such guidelines, but to date only about half have adopted policies that have been approved by the Holy See. Not even Vatican City has a policy on the books.


7. Survivor on Pope’s anti-abuse summit: ‘He’s gotta deliver’. 

By Elise Harris and John L. Allen Jr., Crux, February 19, 2019

One of the most outspoken survivors of clerical abuse says that he wants to see accountability for both the crime and cover-up of clerical abuse, and that if an upcoming summit fails to yield these results, Pope Francis will have failed victims.

“He has to deliver. In my opinion as a survivor, he’s gotta deliver during the summit. If he doesn’t do that, he has really betrayed what he said he has learned from hearing our stories,” Peter Isely, a survivor of child sexual abuse by a Wisconsin priest, told Crux in an interview.

While he and other survivors are hopeful Francis will come through, “we can’t base this thing on hope. Hope is not going to get us there,” he said, explaining that for those who have long endured the devastating impact of abuse, “we base it on justice.”

A longtime outspoken activist and advocate for abuse survivors, Isely was a founding member of the U.S. branch of the Ending Clergy Abuse (ECA) activist group and he was also a founding member and Midwest Director for the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP).

He is in Rome for a Feb. 21-24 summit on the protection of minors in the Church, which was called by Pope Francis to address the global clerical abuse crisis, and which will be attended by the presidents of all bishops’ conferences around the world, heads of religious orders, representatives of Eastern Catholic Churches and abuse victims, among others.


8. Time to Rethink the Abortion Question. 

By Rev. James V. Schall, S.J., Crisis Magazine, February 19, 2019

We are by now used to the statistics in given countries and in the world of the millions of babies aborted in recent decades: 61 million in the United States since 1973; 1.5 billion in the world since 1980. Many are appalled; others claim this procedure as a “right.” In addition, we now see in many states, like Virginia and New York, the removal of any restriction on any abortion, sometimes including killing the unwanted child if born after birth.

The philosophical justification for these conflicting views of abortion can be traced back to the development of the natural law and natural reason and its systematic rejection in modern times. The natural law, however it is defined, means that an objective order is found in existing things. Man discovers this law; he does not “make” it. This order of things, if followed, leads to upholding all human life. The rejected of this order leads step-by-step to the “abolition of man,” as C.S. Lewis described it. Ironically, the logical consequence is a gradual move away from normal sexual relations. The Begetting of actual children by parents is replaced by the work of scientists and human-re-designers in labs.

Freedom was itself ordered to truth. Man, exercising his free will, had to acknowledge this order by understanding and following it. He could freely refuse to acknowledge or follow it. He was not “determined.” This freedom was the glory of his status in the hierarchy of being. When this natural order was rejected, it set in motion the progressive elimination of all institutions and customs that supported the procreation and nurture of human beings. Logically, this limitless freedom enabled man to think that his goal was to reform himself, both his soul and body, according to his own making. His radical “revolution” would improve on the “image of God” that had originally defined the human status in its natural state.

If we were to eliminate abortion, we must freely stop committing the sins that initiate disordered conceptions. Again this implies a radical conversion of soul. Without this conversion, we will continue on the same path on which we now are traveling. Ultimately, we must practically and intellectually rethink the abortion question so that we place our emphasis on the sins that result in what are now called unwanted babies. The aborted children, who could not have existed without out sins, do exist and fall within the range of divine providence. The elimination of abortion must reverse the steps that have, one at a time, lead us logically away from the natural and supernatural good that guides us in the marital relation of one man and one woman in their own homes with their own children.   


9. Letters from the Vatican: #1.

Edited by Xavier Rynne II, First Things, February 19, 2019

But let’s not have too much consolation, please, on the eve of the eve of the meeting of Church leaders called by Pope Francis to look at the abuse crisis in global perspective. Catholicism needs to confront the full reality of this crisis “with the bark off,” as Lyndon Baines Johnson used to say. And it has to confront the crisis in a distinctively biblical and Catholic context, not according to story lines already being hawked by various interest groups, on social media, and in the world press. 

The Body of Christ in the world is sick. And in addressing an illness that is making the Church’s primary missions of evangelization and sanctification ever more difficult, the caution observed by all serious physicians, “First, do no harm,” is worth keeping in mind. For that adage reminds us that accurate diagnosis is the beginning of real cure. 

What will four days of deliberations by the presidents of over one hundred national and regional bishops’ conferences, meeting with the leadership of an often-dysfunctional Roman Curia, produce by way of specific reforms? No one knows, and the safer bet would be “not much.” Such a diverse group, examining a complex set of problems that presents itself in different ways in different ecclesial contexts, is not going to come up with a comprehensive menu of reforms that satisfactorily addresses the crisis in full. The prudent hope would be that the “Meeting for the Protection of Minors” will at least get the problem right. The more hopeful expectation is that by February 25, it will be understood, here in Rome and throughout the world Church, that different local churches are going to have to deal with the abuse crisis in distinctive ways, given their different situations and the widely divergent capacities of local churches. An even more hopeful expectation would be that those parts of the world Church that have barely begun to recognize the crisis of clerical sexual abuse (e.g., Latin America) will begin to understand that there are things to be learned from local churches that have gotten to grips with the crisis, however imperfectly (e.g., the United States).

With that range of possible outcomes in mind, what might reasonably be expected from this week’s four-day meeting, both in terms of getting the problem right and in identifying important pieces of the solution to it? 

If this papally-summoned meeting facilitates agreement on the following ten points, it ought to be reckoned a considerable success. 


10. How a Once-Secular Iranian Muslim-Turned-Atheist Turned Catholic. 

By Andrew T. Walker, Public Discourse, February 18, 2019

It is not very often that a Reformed evangelical confessional Baptist has the opportunity to review a memoir by a once-secular Iranian Muslim-turned-atheist-turned-Catholic. That memoir belongs to New York Post opinion editor, Sohrab Ahmari, someone I’m delighted to call a friend.

From Fire, By Water forces the reader to reckon with ultimate claims. So much of modern Western culture is satisfied dwelling within the penultimate. But even as an atheist, Sohrab was never comfortable living this way. Yes, debauchery and moral excess characterize the early parts of his life story, but even in his licentiousness, he was always tormented by the immediacy of the ultimate and the claims of a troubled conscience. His story calls us out of the shadowlands of neutrality and toward decision and commitment.

The story of Sohrab Ahmari is one of extremes. By turns, he was a rebel Iranian expat, an atheist, a bohemian dissident, an anti-Mormon provocateur, a communist, a lawyer, a teacher, a libertine, and finally, a Christian.

From Fire, By Water is a book that I would place in the hands of any young, over-confident, over-zealous skeptic. It’s a book that college-age kids need to read as they flirt, perhaps for the first time, with new ideas that sound avant-garde and rebellious for rebellion’s sake, but only end up disappointing. From questions and doubts about God, to chasing after the intellectual trends of whatever one is reading at a given moment, to grappling with the surrealism of existence, From Fire, By Water is a humbling self-portrait of one man’s attempt to try on every idea under the sun, only to be left cold, naked, and stranded in the dark until Christ is found.