1. Papal adviser on sex abuse wants Church to offer experience to the world. 

By Claire Giangravè, Crux, February 26, 2018

A Vatican commission created by Pope Francis to advise him on the fight against sexual abuse now is looking to repair its relationship with victims and to “go forward” in order to lend its expertise and resources to the outside world, according to a recently appointed member.

Last week, the Vatican announced that Francis had confirmed seven members of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors and appointed nine new members, some of whom are former victims of sexual abuse.

The Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors (PCPM), is an advisory body to the pope on the issue of safeguarding minors and vulnerable adults from sexual abuse.

The first phase of the commission, before its recent renewal, had “many moments of reflection,” according to Ernesto Caffo, a newly appointed member as well as founder and president of Telefono Azzurro, a non-profit organization in Italy aimed at protecting children.

Most of these points of reflection regarded the commission’s relationship with victims, Caffo said in an interview with Crux, which was an important point of departure and necessary to set the goals and approach of the group.

According to Caffo, who also teaches child neuropsychiatry at the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia, it’s “hugely important” to give victims “a greater voice” in the future work of the commission.

Looking forward, he believes that the commission and the Church as a whole are reaching a point of maturity, where they can be “a model” in terms of involvement in this issue. The goal is to find in the Church “a source of strength” that can offer its knowledge and expertise to the world.


2. Pope calls violence in Syria ‘inhuman,’ backs UN cease-fire. 

By Associated Press, February 25, 2018, 6:34 AM

Pope Francis is denouncing the “inhuman” violence in Syria and is backing a U.N. Security Council-demanded cease-fire so food and medicine can reach desperate Syrians and the sick and wounded can be evacuated.

Francis led thousands of people in St. Peter’s Square in praying Sunday for an “immediate” end to hostilities.

On Saturday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously approved a resolution demanding a 30-day cease-fire across Syria to deliver humanitarian aid to millions and evacuate the critically ill and wounded.


3. Trump’s Family-Planning Program to Prioritize Faith-Based Clinics: New system favors funding for organizations that counsel abstinence. 

By Michelle Hackman, The Wall Street Journal, February 24, 2018, Pg. A3

The Trump administration said it would prioritize grant applications to the Title X family-planning program that come from organizations with a religious background and counsel abstinence or “natural” methods, a move abortion providers said will make it harder for them to get federal funding.

Health officials outlined the new rules Friday in announcing a fresh round of funding for Title X, which pays for services like contraception and infertility treatment.

The announcement came several months after the date initially set by the Department of Health and Human Services, and activists on both sides of the abortion debate were eager to see if the administration would exclude abortion providers.


4. Book Review – “Plan of Life: Habits to Help You Grow Closer to God”. 

By Andrea Picciotti-Bayer, Andrea Picciotti-Bayer is Legal Advisor for The Catholic Association Foundation, Catholic News Agency, February 23, 2018

Praise abounds for Father Roger Landry’s engaging book, Plan of Life: Habits to Help You Grow Closer to God. Heavy-hitters in the defense of the faith – like George Weigel and Mary Eberstadt – as well as influential Church leaders, such as Boston’s Cardinal O’Malley, New York’s Cardinal Dolan and Apostolic Nuncio to the U.N. Archbishop Auza, have joined together to recommend this charming guidebook for making a plan to better know, love and serve God.

In the book’s introduction, Landry recalls that “Saint John Paul II summed up the Church’s wisdom regarding attaining union with God by naming six pillars of ‘training in holiness’: grace, prayer, Sunday Mass, Confession, listening to the word of God, and proclaiming that word.” Making sure these pillars are present in our spiritual lives requires a genuine commitment to living a “plan of life.”   

For those not familiar with the term, Fr. Landry explains that a “plan of life” is a “series of practices given to us by the saints and spiritual directors to help people to translate their desire to grow closer to God from a vague aspiration into a reality.”    

More than a dry manual of directives, Plan of Life reads likes a perfect combination of collected correspondence from a dear friend sharing his own personal encounter with God, a TED talk on the fundamental elements of faith and Catholic tradition, and the unequivocal encouragement of a “personal trainer” for how to better treat Our Lord with all of our heart, soul and mind. As Landry so concisely explains, “a Plan of Life is much more than discrete prayers and practices: it’s a cohesive whole that forms us to live consciously and continuously in God’s presence.”   

Plan of Life, much like coming in contact with the book’s  well-formed and attentive author, is a wonderfully fresh resource for any person seeking to grow in the interior life. 


5. U.S. Donors Balk at $25 Million Vatican Request: Holy See sought funds for scandal-plagued Rome hospital. 

By Francis X. Rocca, The Wall Street Journal, February 23, 2018, 2:54 PM

A dispute has erupted between wealthy American donors and a Catholic charity over the Vatican’s request for a multimillion-dollar grant, causing unusual friction between church leadership and laity and prompting calls for greater lay oversight of church finances.

The dispute centers on the Papal Foundation, a Pennsylvania-based foundation that supports charitable activities designated by the Holy See. Last summer, the Vatican asked it for $25 million to fund the Istituto Dermopatico dell’Immacolata (IDI), a Catholic dermatological hospital in Rome with a history of financial scandals.

The request was highly exceptional, since the foundation’s grants rarely exceed $200,000 and typically go to institutions serving the poor in developing countries.

Continuing discontent among the donors over the IDI grant led the U.S. cardinals who legally control the foundation to cut down the size of the grant to $13 million.

In a January letter to donors, the foundation’s executive committee, which includes Cardinal Wuerl and New York’s Cardinal Timothy Dolan, acknowledged “division (and) disharmony” between hierarchy and laity in the group, and announced that the foundation wouldn’t send the Vatican the remaining $12 million that hadn’t yet been disbursed.

The letter also proposed that lay donors on the board would be able to veto future grants of more than $1 million.

In the U.S., since the wave of clerical sex-abuse scandals that started in 2002, leading to billions of dollars in settlements and the bankruptcies of several dioceses, Catholic donors and money managers have increased their scrutiny of church-related charitable funds.