1. Pope Denounces Sex-Abuse ‘Plague’ Amid Pressure for Reforms, Pope Francis pushes for ‘concrete and effective measures’ to prevent clerical sex abuse.

By Francis X. Rocca, Wall Street Journal Online, February 21, 2019, 6:40 AM

Pope Francis denounced a “plague of sexual abuses perpetrated by men of the church to the harm of minors,” and called on Catholic bishops to “listen to the cry of the little ones who plead for justice,” as he opened a four-day summit on preventing clerical sex abuse.

In his brief opening address Thursday the pope called on participants to discuss “how to address this evil that afflicts the church and humanity.” The world was watching, the pope said, and expecting the summit to produce “not simple and predictable condemnations, but concrete and effective measures to implement. We need to be concrete.”

It’s unclear, however, how the meeting among bishops and other church leaders can produce the sort of tough world-wide policies for preventing abuse, holding wrongdoers accountable and raising the transparency of church processes that advocates for sex-abuse victims want. Victims and activists are planning a demonstration in Rome on Saturday.


2. Pope Francis calls for ‘concrete and effective measures’ against clerical sexual abuse as historic Vatican summit gets underway.

By Chico Harlan, Washington Post Online, February 21, 2019, 7:57 AM

Pope Francis opened a landmark summit Thursday on preventing clerical sexual abuse, saying Catholics were looking to church leaders not for “simple and predictable condemnations” but for “concrete and effective measures” to deal with the scourge.

Church officials have called the four-day meeting one phase in a long process, not a cure-all. But the pope and the Vatican face intense pressure to push bishops from around the world to take the issue seriously, even in regions where abuse scandals have not yet surfaced publicly.

Still, the church is not aiming to draw up a single, global standard for dealing with abuse. Corrupt legal systems or draconian laws in some countries make it unrealistic, church officials have said, for the Vatican to mandate that all bishops report abuse accusations to criminal authorities — a standard that is common within the U.S. church.


3. Vatican summit’s divide puts gay priests ‘in the crosshairs’.

By Chico Harlan, The Washington Post, February 21, 2019, Pg. A1

But church figures in Rome and beyond say one thing is clear: As Pope Francis opens a landmark conference at the Vatican on sexual abuse Thursday, the debate over gay priests is becoming a divisive undercurrent of the summit itself.

The topic hints at the challenges for the Roman Catholic Church as it begins the most direct attempt in its history to address the problem of sexual abuse. Though abuse and sexuality have been found to have no correlation, according to widely accepted research, they have become intertwined on the ideological battlefield of the church — and Catholics of all stripes have descended on Rome this week, with some arguing that Pope Francis is overlooking homosexuality in diagnosing the root reasons for abuse.


4. Choosing death with dignity, Marylanders with terminal illnesses should have the right to medical assistance in dying.

The Washington Post, February 21, 2019, Pg. A16, Editorial

The Maryland General Assembly is considering legislation that would allow medical assistance in dying for people who have been diagnosed with a terminal illness. It is not the first time Maryland lawmakers have considered the issue, but previous efforts never got any real traction. This year may be different. 

The Maryland legislation is modeled after Oregon’s law. There are increased safeguards, including the requirement that a person make three requests (one must be made with the individual alone with his or her doctor) for a life-ending prescription. A recent poll by Public Policy Polling showed that Marylanders support medical aid in dying by a 3-to-1 margin. It is time for Maryland lawmakers to vote on this bill; we hope they agree that people should have the right to choice when it comes to their own deaths.


5. Why the Vatican Won’t Promise a Global Anti-Abuse Standard.

By Jason Horowitz, The New York Times, February 21, 2019, Pg. A4

In parts of the vast Catholic world, some bishops view clerical sexual abuse as more of a sin than a crime. Others attribute it to homosexuality or question that it exists at all. Where Catholics are a minority, as in the Middle East, reporting a pedophile priest to the civil authorities is tantamount to sentencing him to death.

As Pope Francis convenes church leaders for a meeting at the Vatican starting on Thursday to address the scourge of clerical sexual abuse, victims’ advocates are demanding urgent and uniform church laws to impose zero tolerance for priests who abuse minors and for the bishops who cover up for them, regardless of the culture in which they operate.

But Vatican officials say such a demand reflects a misconception that change in a global and ancient institution can be made with the wave of a papal wand.

The diversity of legal and cultural barriers to identifying abusers and assisting victims, as well as entrenched denial, makes putting in place one world standard virtually impossible, they say.


6. Sex abuse summit sidesteps role of gay priests, Catholic critics see root cause.

By Christopher Vondracek, The Washington Times, February 21, 2019, Pg. A1

Some conservative U.S. Catholics are dismayed by the official schedule for Pope Francis’ Vatican summit with bishops on clerical sex abuse that begins Thursday, saying it ignores the root cause of the scandal: gays in the priesthood.

They point to Cardinal Blase J. Cupich of Chicago, who will lead the nearly 200 bishops through three days of discussions and listening sessions addressing the clergy sexual abuse scandal, which has shaken the Roman Catholic Church to its foundation. He evaded questions on the topic of gay priests and their adult victims three times during a press conference Monday in Rome.

The summit schedule, titled “For the Protection of Minors in the Church,” was announced during the press conference, where American conservative critics noted a glaring omission in the subject matter.

Pope Francis’ unprecedented summit begins just days after the Vatican’s announcement that former Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, the onetime archbishop of Washington, had been defrocked as punishment for decades of sexual misconduct and abuse against seminarians and other male congregants. He is the highest-ranking clergyman to be stripped of his ministry amid the church’s scandal.

The Vatican announced the summit in September, forcing American bishops to cancel plans for a meeting among themselves to address the U.S. facet of the global church scandal.

Meanwhile, attorneys general in several states have opened investigations of predator priests and church leaders’ cover-ups and have identified sex-related crimes by clergy perpetrated over many years.

“I hope the summit can do something,” said Catholic University theology professor Christopher J. Ruddy. “If, however, it’s an attempt by the Vatican to keep control of something and avoid difficult issues, I think that’s a real problem.”


7. Pope demands bishops act now on abuse; victims speak of pain. 

By Nicole Winfield, The Associated Press, February 21, 2019, 7:53 AM

Pope Francis opened a landmark sex abuse prevention summit Thursday by warning senior Catholic figures that the faithful are demanding concrete action against predator priests and not just words of condemnation. Victims then told the bishops of the searing emotional pain of their abuse.

Francis opened the four-day summit by telling the Catholic hierarchy that their own responsibility to deal effectively with priests who rape and molest children weighed on the proceedings.

“Listen to the cry of the young, who want justice,” and seize the opportunity to “transform this evil into a chance for understanding and purification,” Francis told the 190 leaders of bishops conferences and religious orders.

“The holy people of God are watching and expect not just simple and obvious condemnations, but efficient and concrete measures to be established,” he warned.


8. Vatican’s legal procedures for handling sex abuse, explained. 

By Nicole Winfield, The Associated Press, February 21, 2019

These days, the Vatican office that eventually replaced the Roman Catholic Inquisition is knee-deep in processing clergy sex abuse cases. The procedures of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith will be on display this week as high-ranking bishops summoned by Pope Francis attend an unprecedented four-day tutorial on preventing sex abuse and prosecuting pedophile priests

Here is a primer on the Catholic Church’s regulations for investigating both priests accused of molesting children and superiors who have been accused of covering up those crimes.

In countries where clergy are required to report child abuse, bishops and superiors of religious orders are supposed to notify police when someone alleges that a priest molested a child and they are supposed to cooperate with any investigations.

However, the policy is nonbinding and only was articulated publicly in 2010 when the Vatican posted it on its website. Prior to that, the Vatican long sought to prevent public law enforcement agencies from learning about abusers in the clergy.

The Vatican told a United Nations committee that 848 priests had been defrocked and another 2,572 given lesser sanctions from 2004-2014.

Since then, the Vatican has not released any more data on defrockings, evidence that such transparency was not universally welcomed in the Holy See.

There is a fierce debate within the Catholic hierarchy about whether priests should be defrocked for sex abuse or given lesser sanctions. Many powerful cardinals close to Francis, aghast at the thinning of clerical ranks from so many defrockings, favor a more “merciful” approach.

Archbishop Charles Scicluna, who enforced a tough line on abusers when he was the Vatican’s lead sex crimes prosecutor from 2002-2012, has recently returned to a position of power at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. He said this week he would support releasing new defrocking statistics.


9. Opening summit, Pope urges ‘concrete, effective measures’ on abuse. 

By Inés San Martín, Crux, February 21, 2019

Concrete, effective actions and courage, not merely “simple condemnations,”, is what Pope Francis said he’s expecting from a Feb. 21-24 Vatican summit on clerical abuse that opened Thursday morning.

The pontiff pointedly said this is what the People of God want, watching the 190 men and women meeting over the next four days in Rome.

Thursday’s opening session included several voices acknowledging that the Catholic Church has failed victims, and that crimes of sexual abuse of minors by clergy have been covered up by bishops

“The Holy People of God are watching us and wait for more than simple condemnations, they expect concrete and effective measures. We need concreteness,” Francis said in a short opening speech.

Defining the abuse of minors perpetrated by men of the Church as a “plague,” Francis said he’d thought to reach out to presidents of bishops’ conferences, heads of the Eastern Churches and leaders of male and female religious orders so they can “listen to the cries of the little ones clamoring for our help.”


10. The Times Pushes a Tired and Flawed Gay Priest Narrative. 

By Adrian Reimers, Crisis Magazine, February 21, 2019

In its recent Sunday edition, America’s newspaper of record ran a front-page article on the challenges facing gay Catholic priests titled “A Silent Crisis for Gay Priests.” It is the most recent specimen of the journalistic genre, suffering-gay-Catholic-priests-in-an-unwelcoming-church. The narrative is well-known by now: a Church that fails to welcome gay priests, a Church whose leaders may well reject them, a Church where they must stay in the closet has made their ‘closet’ into a cage. This narrative has been developed on the pages of the New York Times, America Magazine, and Fr. James Martin’s book.

This article is flawed. The narrative is false. The flaw is that this and other such articles do not address Catholicism, not really. In fact, this popular narrative badly misunderstands both the Catholic Church and the priest himself.

Who is the priest? He may identify as “gay,” but this is not what God made him to be. Because of genetic or psychological factors, or perhaps some other influences, his neuronal networks or hormonal balance may cause him to find other men sexually desirable. Like every other human being he is embodied, and our bodily appetites are frequently disordered or misdirected. More important, however, is that he has a rational soul, and in virtue of that soul he can know truths and desire the good. It is in virtue of the soul that he is what he is and becomes who he is to be. The priest is a man.

In the end it comes down to love. For the love of God, the priest embraces his Lord Jesus’s invitation to celibacy as a means to and sign of his complete devotion to the mission of the Church. By forgoing the satisfaction of sexual love with another human being, the priest does not forgo love. He has consecrated himself entirely to the love of his Creator and Savior. The life of the priest is hard. If he is gay—however he may understand what “gay” means—he may face distinct challenges that most others do not face, but they face challenges that he does not. In his ministry, he must console widows and parents whose children have made tragic choices. As he resists temptation, he may be counselling a young woman being pressured to abort her baby or a boy whose drug habit is ruining his life. Like Christ, the priest is a man for others. Despite his own hardships, he is to bring Christ to a world hungry for love. He hardly has time to worry about the structure of his subjective sexual appetites.


11. Letters from the Vatican: #3.

Edited by Xavier Rynne II, First Things, February 21, 2019

Whether accidental or deliberate, the fact that a world meeting of Catholic leaders to address the scourge of clerical sexual abuse is opening on today’s liturgical memorial of St. Peter Damian is certainly appropriate. That coincidence could also prove providential, if those participating in the discussions of the next four days take the example of this Doctor of the Church seriously and apply his candor, tenacity, and courage to our own times.

Born in Ravenna in 1007, Peter Damian was well-educated in the humanities and pursued a career as a teacher before taking Holy Orders and then entering the monastery at Fonte Avellana in 1035. Elected prior in 1043, he led a reformed monastic community that lived from the insights of both St. Benedict and St. Romuald, combining traditional aspects of monasticism with the more rigorous disciplines of hermits. After reforming the life of his own community, he devoted himself to reforming the clergy as a whole, working with several popes but especially Leo IX. Created cardinal against his will by Pope Stephen IX, he also undertook direct pastoral duties as archbishop of Ostia, one of the “suburbicarian” dioceses held by the senior members of the College of Cardinals. In 1067, Pope Alexander II allowed him to return to his preferred life at Fonte Avellana, although he continued to undertake diplomatic missions for the Holy See. He died in 1072 and was declared a Doctor of the Church in 1828 by Pope Leo XII. As Pope Benedict XVI said of Damian, “He spent himself with lucid consistency and great severity for the reform of the Church of his time.”

St. Peter Damian’s is not the only voice to be heard as the Catholic Church wrestles with the challenge of chastity, especially for its ordained leaders, in the hyper-sexualized twenty-first century. But it is precisely the cleansing harshness of his critique—the prophetic harshness of a John the Baptist—that makes his one voice to be reckoned with. And whatever the limits of his method of argument, his bracing if jarring example of clear-eyed honesty about the facts is one that must be followed, if this abuse summit is going to be a step toward authentic and deep Catholic reform.