1. Cardinal Is Found Guilty of Sex Abuse.

By Robb M. Stewart, The Wall Street Journal, February 26, 2019, Pg. A18

The most senior Vatican official to stand trial on child sex-abuse charges was found guilty of assaulting two choirboys at a church in his former diocese, though a second trial won’t proceed after prosecutors dropped the case on Tuesday.

The guilty verdict was issued on Dec. 11 against Cardinal George Pell. A judge in Melbourne, where the cardinal was once archbishop, agreed Tuesday to lift an order restricting coverage of the allegations against the priest, as well as the details of the outcome of that trial. His conviction represents a landmark ruling in a wider global scandal that has engulfed the Catholic Church.

The order was lifted after prosecutors withdrew separate charges against the cardinal. Those charges, which claimed he indecently assaulted two minors about 40 years ago when he was a priest in his home- town parish—and claims by a third witness—would have been the basis for a second trial against Cardinal Pell, who was named the Vatican’s finance chief by Pope Francis in 2014.

Cardinal Pell is appealing an earlier conviction on four counts of an indecent act with or in front of a child and one of sexual penetration of a child under 16 years old. Sentencing hearings are scheduled to begin Wednesday.


2. The Catholic Church’s ‘Ravenous Wolves’.

The New York Times, February 26, 2019, Pg. A22, Editorial

To many Roman Catholics worldwide, the very fact of senior bishops listening to victims of clerical sexual abuse and the pope condemning the evil in vivid language no doubt came as a shock. The main body of the church has long shifted away from the United States and Western Europe, and the faithful in Africa, Asia and Latin America have not yet confronted the blight of predatory clergymen and institutional deafness to the extent of Americans or Europeans.

That is likely to be the explanation given by the Vatican for the lack of concrete measures to combat the crisis after a meeting heralded as a mighty counterattack by hierarchy and its activist pope against the evil ravaging their church: The global flock needs to see and hear first, and the change must arise from their own episcopate, they’ll say.

It doesn’t wash.

Of course, it is important that the church investigate what in its culture gives rise to such perversity. Pope Francis has demonstrated an admirable openness on many once-taboo issues, and his anguished remarks on the clerical abuse scandal no doubt come from the heart.

But a malignancy whose primary victims are trusting children must be treated by immediate and radical measures, not by appeals or hand-wringing. The time for that is past.


3. Justice Kagan may play key role in Md. Peace Cross case.

By Robert Barnes, The Washington Post, February 26, 2019, Pg. A1

Justice Elena Kagan has emerged as one of the Supreme Court’s most powerful voices on the separation of church and state, often rebuking conservative colleagues for allowing government actions that she says favor one religion over another.

But the last time the justices considered the fate of a cross constructed on public land, Kagan was on the other side of the bench and on one side of the issue.

As President Barack Obama’s solicitor general, Kagan successfully defended a cross in the Mojave National Preserve, convincing the court’s conservatives that what she unwaveringly referred to as a “war memorial” should remain as a tribute to the sacrifice of World War I dead.

here is a reboot of the issue Wednesday, this time with Kagan as a justice: another cross dedicated to Americans killed during World War I, a massive structure on public land in Maryland, about five miles northeast of the Supreme Court.

The legal battle over the Bladensburg Peace Cross could provide sharper definition to the court’s murky jurisprudence over when religious symbols on public land violate constitutional prohibitions on government establishment of religion. It is one of the term’s marquee cases, and Kagan could play a pivotal role.


4. Iowa diocese names 28 priests accused of abuse. 

By Associated Press, The Washington Post, February 26, 2019, Pg. A7

At least 28 priests are credibly accused of having sexually abused more than 100 boys and girls while working for a Roman Catholic diocese in Iowa, church officials announced Monday. 

The Diocese of Sioux City released a long-awaited list of those who have been the subject of credible allegations of sexual abuse involving minors.

The list included about 5 percent of the priests who have worked for the diocese at some point since its inception in 1902. A 29th priest has been accused, but his name is being withheld pending an appeal to the Vatican.

“Publishing this list is the beginning of a new chapter in the history of our diocese,” said Bishop R. Walker Nickless, who released the list at a news conference. “We want it to usher in a climate of openness and transparency, resulting in the protection of our youth and accountability for clergy and church leaders.”


5. Clinic can’t resume abortions after ruling.

By Associated Press, The Washington Post, February 26, 2019, Pg. A3

Planned Parenthood cannot resume abortions at a clinic in central Missouri after a federal judge ruled that state restrictions were not “undue” burdens on women seeking abortions. 

Missouri law requires clinics that provide abortions to have physicians with admitting privileges at a nearby hospital. The Columbia clinic has been unable to secure a physician with those privileges after a panel of medical staff at University of Missouri Health Care decided to stop offering the privileges in 2015 during a Republican-led legislative investigation on abortion in the state. 

The clinic filed a motion in December asking for an exemption from that requirement so the Columbia clinic could resume abortions. St. Louis has the only clinic able to offer abortions in the state. 


6. Democrats’ filibuster blocks GOP’s bill on failed abortionsProposal was response to legislation in Virginia.

By Alex S Woyer, The Washington Times, February 26, 2019, Pg. A1

Republicans’ effort to outlaw infanticide of babies born after botched abortions collapsed Monday, falling victim to a Democrat-led filibuster in what could be Congress’s only chance to vote on the hot-button issue this year.

The GOP-led Senate only mustered 53 votes — seven shy of the 60 needed to overcome the Democratic filibuster. Three Democrats crossed the aisle to back the bill, while three Republicans missed the vote.

Backers said they were driven to act by recent state laws and bills they said would allow abortions up to the point of birth — and, in at least the case of one failed piece of legislation in Virginia, would have allowed a child born despite an attempted abortion to be left to die.

“It isn’t about new restrictions on abortion. It isn’t about changing the options available to women. It’s just about recognizing that a newborn baby is a newborn baby. Period,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican.

The Rev. Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life, vowed to make this vote a 2020 issue.

“For the Democrats, a newborn slated for extermination before birth is fair game even after birth. This is infanticide. The only thing Americans can do to protect these most vulnerable babies is to vote out of office those who fail to protect them,” Father Pavone said.


7. Vatican: Cardinal Pell says he’s innocent; news is painful.

By Frances D’Emilio, The Associated Press, February 26, 2019

The Vatican on Tuesday described as “painful” the news of the conviction of Australian Cardinal George Pell, one of Pope Francis’ top aides, by an Australian court for molesting two choirboys in the 1990s, but insisted the prelate has the right to defend himself until the appeals process is completed.

Acting Vatican spokesman Alessandro Gisotti on Tuesday read a brief statement but took no questions about the conviction, which was delivered unanimously in Victoria state County Court in December. Due to a strict court order, news of the verdict couldn’t be published until Tuesday.

The pontiff “to guarantee the course of justice” has confirmed precautionary measures he already had taken against Pell, including banning him from publicly celebrating Mass, and “as is the rule, contact in any way and form with minors,” Gisotti said.

Francis had tapped Pell as his economy minister in 2014 as part of Vatican determination to reform its scandal-plagued financial system, even though some allegations against the Australian were known at that time. Pell’s conviction likely further stains Francis’ record on cracking down on credibly abused clergy.

The court verdict represented “painful news that, we are well aware, has shocked very many people, not only in Australia,” Gisotti said. “As we have affirmed on other occasions, we restate the utmost respect for Australian judiciary authorities,” he said.


8. The Catholic Church Must Strive For Virtue in Light of Sex Abuse. 

By Andrea Picciotti-Bayer, RealClear Religion, February 26, 2019
Andrea Picciotti-Bayer is Legal Advisor for The Catholic Association Foundation.

The Vatican dismissed the former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick from the clerical state for his sexually abusive behavior.

Has the Catholic Church put the great scandals of 2018 behind it?


The McCarrick case is about more than McCarrick’s grave failings as a priest. Stripping the former Cardinal of his rights as a priest still leaves bigger questions about the Catholic hierarchy both in America and in Rome unanswered. How did someone who engaged in such evil rise to become a prince of the Catholic Church? What happened in this case and others? How can we ensure it never happens again?  

Yes, disciplining McCarrick is an important step in reforming the Church, just as the protective steps taken already by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops have made Catholic churches and schools some of the safest places in the nation for children thanks to the Dallas Charter. In 2002, the U.S. bishops agreed to permanently remove from ministry any priest who committed even one abusive act against a child, to report every abuse accusation against priests to government authorities, to conduct background checks on all church employees who work with children, to establish abuse prevention programs and to appoint special ministers to help abuse victims as well as lay committees known as review boards to assess accusations against priests. The Vatican now must do more than simply throw out a predator priest like McCarrick so that the Catholic Church throughout the world can walk in the path of the good, true and beautiful.

Church leaders from prelates to Pope can follow up on McCarrick’s defrocking this month and beyond by making plain the Church’s teaching on and commitment to purity in behavior and intentions. And they can model humility by acknowledging any role they played in allowing McCarrick – or other McCarricks – to find a home in the hierarchy and purging anyone unwilling to faithfully live out their priestly vocation.  


9. Outspoken Nigerian nun says “zero tolerance” means defrocking. 

By John L. Allen Jr., Editor, Crux, February 26, 2019

One of the questions left open in the wake of Pope Francis’s Feb. 21-24 summit on clerical sexual abuse is what, exactly, is meant by a policy of “zero tolerance.” While everyone seemed to feel the Church needs it, exactly how to define it was far less clear.

For Americans who’ve been involved in efforts at Church reform, the term “zero tolerance” has a specific meaning. It refers not merely to being intolerant of sexual abuse and the clergy who commit it, but to imposing dismissal from the clerical state – i.e., defrocking – as the near-standard penalty for even one substantiated act of sexual abuse of a minor.

To put it more bluntly, it means being kicked out of the priesthood unless there are compelling and rare reasons for not doing so, such as advanced age. Inside and outside the summit, some voices suggested that’s a solution that perhaps makes sense in the context of a legalistic culture in the United States, but not necessarily everywhere else.

On Monday, organizers of the anti-abuse summit met senior Vatican officials to discuss follow-up to the event. It’s not clear to what extent defining “zero tolerance” will figure on their agenda – but if it does, there’s at least one African voice who clearly doesn’t see the “American” definition of the phrase as running out of gas outside American airspace.


10. Leaning from Others’ Experience: Early-Warning Signals about Sexual Abusers.

By Andrea Picciotti-Bayer, First Things, February 23, 2019
Andrea Picciotti-Bayer is legal adviser to the Catholic Association Foundation

Can the police be a part of the answer to the Catholic Church’s current sex abuse crisis?  Yes, but not only in the way you might immediately think.  Turning over suspected cases of clerical sex abuse to law enforcement officials addresses the problem after the fact.  The experience of law enforcement agencies, however, also provides a way to prevent incidents before they happen, before a victim becomes a victim, before a priest or prelate becomes an offender, before the Body of Christ is injured by scandal. 

Any number of reform ideas will be proposed during Pope Francis’s abuse summit, and indeed important reforms have already been implemented.  The Dallas Charter, enacted in 2002 by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, includes a “zero tolerance” promise to sweep the Church clean of any priest or deacon who sexually abuses a child.  The Charter has already helped enhance a culture of safety for children in U.S. Catholic schools and parishes.  As the McCarrick affair makes painfully clear, though, amending the Dallas Charter to include bishops is not enough.  Rather, the entire Church, both laity and ordained leadership, must confront the broader issue of sexual infidelity among too many of our clergy.  Lessons learned by American law enforcement in addressing police misconduct can help restore a culture of fidelity among clergy and a climate of trust among the faithful. 

Because the abuse crisis is, at its core, a crisis of sexual infidelity, the issue of same-sex attraction cannot be ignored.  “If a candidate practices homosexuality or presents deep-seated homosexual tendencies, his spiritual director as well as his confessor have the duty to dissuade him in conscience towards ordination,” according to the Vatican’s instructions for seminary formation. Although having homosexual desires is not an automatic disqualifier to the priesthood, a priest thus afflicted will need special counsel and supports to live a life of continence.   

An ecclesiastical early warning system would lower the number of cases of sexual abuse by clergy, whether the victims be minors or vulnerable adults.  It would also provide bishops the hard data to confront a culture of sexual infidelity where it exists, and to tailor specific supports for priests struggling to live fruitful and chaste vocations.  For bishops who are already well-aware of the vulnerabilities of their priests, an early warning system is a useful tool for initiating effective interventions and follow-up.  As for bishops who have either downplayed the problem or rationalized looking the other way, the system will more effectively hold them accountable.   

With law-enforcement’s “early warning” system as a model, and God’s grace, our bishops might see a day when they will not have to call in the police regarding one of their priests or fellow bishops. 

Andrea Picciotti-Bayer is legal adviser to the Catholic Association Foundation, an organization dedicated to being a faithful Catholic voice in the public square.  In addition to opinion pieces in Catholic and secular media, she is the author of several amicus briefs submitted to federal courts of appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court in defense of pro-life pregnancy centers and faith-based foster care agencies.  A graduate of Northwestern University and Stanford Law School, she served as a trial and appellate lawyer in the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division.