1. Vatican Calls Verdict Against Pell Painful.

By Francis X. Rocca, The Wall Street Journal, February 27, 2019, Pg. A7

The Vatican called the conviction of Australian Cardinal George Pell for child sex abuse “painful news” and said Tuesday that he had been placed under precautionary restrictions by the church.

The Vatican’s response to the verdict is likely to draw comparisons with its treatment of former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick of Washington, who was dismissed from the priesthood this month after a church trial found him guilty of sexual abuse of minors and sexual misconduct with adults. Mr. McCarrick hasn’t been tried in a secular criminal court.

In contrast to their view of the McCarrick case, Vatican officials have privately voiced extreme skepticism about the charges against Cardinal Pell. 

Later on Tuesday, the Vatican confirmed that Cardinal Pell is no longer prefect of the Vatican’s Secretariat for the Economy, from which he took a leave of absence when he returned to Australia in 2017. His five-year term in that role was due to expire this month.

Pope Francis removed the Australian from his advisory Council of Cardinals in October, ostensibly for reasons of age.


2. A Supreme Court Cross-Roads, The Bladensburg cross case tees up the Lemon test for overturning.

The Wall Street Journal, February 27, 2019, Pg. A16, Editorial

The Supreme Court on Wednesday will consider whether a 93-year-old cross-shaped war memorial on public land violates the Constitutional prohibition on government establishment of religion. The specific case is an easy call, but the Justices also have an opportunity to clear up their messy Establishment Clause jurisprudence.

While a district court found the cross did not violate the Constitution, a Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals panel held that its “inherent religious meaning” would compel any reasonable observer to conclude that the government “either places Christianity above other faiths, views being American and Christian as one in the same, or both.”

The Fourth Circuit cited the Court’s increasingly moldy Lemon precedent (1971) that required government actions implicating religion to have a “secular purpose” and “primary effect” that “neither advances nor inhibits religion.” In 1984 the Court added that a “reasonable observer” must conclude the government is not endorsing a religion.

The question is how far the Justices want to go in American Legion v. American Humanist Association.

With new Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, there may be a five-vote majority to overturn Lemon and lay out clearer legal guidelines.

Alternatively, Chief Justice John Roberts may prefer to coax a couple of liberal Justices to join a narrow ruling that leaves Lemon alive. But such a narrow ruling would perpetuate the current confusion in the lower courts.


3. Fine words, flimsy deeds.

The Washington Post, February 27, 2019, Pg. A20, Editorial

Was the Vatican’s just-completed summit on child sex abuse, convened by Pope Francis amid a crisis of credibility that has crippled the Catholic Church’s moral authority, really intended simply to prepare the way for genuine reforms in the indefinite future? Victims’ groups had hoped for much more, as had many of the faithful in the United States and elsewhere. They were heartened, briefly, when the pope opened the unprecedented four-day conference by demanding what he called “concrete” measures to deliver something real that would uproot the scourge of clerical sex abuse and hierarchical coverup. 

In the end, those concrete measures were a chimera — widely debated, held up to intense canonical scrutiny, but ultimately put off to some future date. The contrast with the pope’s own words could not have been sharper, or more disappointing. 

A meaningful and, yes, concrete agenda for the U.S. bishops would start with taking up measures they were on the verge of adopting last November when the Holy See intervened to stop them. That would include establishing a code of conduct for bishops, who have been instrumental in covering up the church’s crimes, as well as a commission of lay Catholics to review allegations of misconduct by bishops. In addition, it would mean reversing the church’s steadfast opposition to changes in state laws that prohibit survivors of pedophile priests from filing lawsuits years after the abuse took place. Moreover, it would mean a shift in rhetoric that would recognize not only the church’s obligation to root out abuse but also its unique history as a haven for abusers. 

Let the American bishops act if the pope will not. 


4. Australian cardinal’s abuse conviction calls into question media gag orders.

By A. Odysseus Patrick and Rick Noack, The Washington Post, February 27, 2019, Pg. A15

A judge began the sentencing hearing Wednesday for Australian Cardinal George Pell for sexual assault even as details of the case spill out more than two months after he was convicted of abusing two choirboys 22 years ago. 

The trial of the 77-year-old Pell again brought the Vatican’s abuse scandals into the highest levels of the church hierarchy. The verdict was made public just days after a Vatican summit on sexual abuse in the church. 

But the Pell case, which unfolded in a Melbourne courtroom, also was a test of whether court privacy rules are still enforceable — or applicable — with borderless news sites and social media

At a hearing Wednesday, Victoria state County Court Chief Judge Peter Kidd said that the fallen priest’s sentence would need to deter others from committing similar crimes but also that his prospects for rehabilitation are good and he is unlikely to commit more crimes, the Age newspaper reported. A prosecutor, Mark Gibson, told Kidd that Pell should receive jail time. 


5. Saving a monument from radical secularism , How the intolerant take aim at the ‘Peace Cross,’ a memorial to the fallen.

By Andrea Picciotti-Bayer, The Washington Times, February 27, 2019, Pg. B4, Opinion
Andrea Picciotti-Bayer is legal adviser for The Catholic Association Foundation.

The U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral argument this month in the American Legion’s bid to save a century-old commemorative monument from the intolerance that comes from radical secularism. The Legion might even save the court from its confused Establishment Clause jurisprudence. The case (American Legion v. American Humanist Association) is one of this term’s most important cases.

The Supreme Court’s 1970 Lemon decision declared unconstitutional Pennsylvania and Rhode Island statutes that provided state aid to predominately parochial schools. The court established the three-pronged “Lemon test” for evaluating such claims: “First, the statute must have a secular purpose; second, its principal or primary effect must be one that neither advances nor inhibits religion; finally, the statute must not foster an excessive government entanglement with religion.”

Scholars like Stanford Law’s Michael McConnell and Cardozo Law’s Marci A. Hamilton have observed that the test has been much criticized in the years since Lemon, and the Supreme Court often decides Establishment Clause cases without reference to it. Yet the justices, they note, “have not overruled the Lemon test, meaning the lower courts remain obliged to use it.” The late Antonin Scalia was well-known for his disdain of Lemon. “Like some ghoul in a late night horror movie that repeatedly sits up in its grave and shuffles abroad, after being repeatedly killed and buried,” Justice Scalia wrote in a 1993 concurrence, “Lemon stalks our Establishment Clause jurisprudence again.”

Moreover, a “tangible coercion” test will protect us from grotesqueries like the felling of Bladensburg’s Peace Cross. Alvergia Guyton can honor her uncle, John Henry Seaburn Jr. — and the 48 other Marylanders — can rest in well-earned peace.


6. ‘As your father is perfect’, How the Catholic Church must ensure that justice is done.

By Michael P. Orsi, The Washington Times, February 27, 2019, Pg. B4, Opinion
Michael P. Orsi, a priest of the Diocese of Cam-den, New Jersey, serves as parochial vicar at St. Agnes Parish in Naples, Florida. He is host of “Action for Life TV.”

The Catholic Church’s ongoing sex scandal has toppled Theodore McCarrick from what had been one of the most exalted positions in the Catholic hierarchy. After being found guilty of pedophilia, of taking sexual advantage of seminarians, and of soliciting sex in the confessional, McCarrick was removed from his cardinalate and defrocked.

This is surely one of the most severe penalties imposed upon someone of such high church rank in recent times. The now ex-priest currently lives in seclusion at a religious house on the plains of western Kansas.

As Matthew 5:45 says, God “makes the sun shine on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” So we can’t hate Theodore McCarrick. We can’t make him the poster boy for everything that’s gone wrong in the church.

And of course, we must remember that he didn’t do what he did alone. There were others who knew, who did nothing to stop him, and who consequently share the guilt. We must hold their feet to the fire so that these things don’t happen again.

We also must pray for them, as we pray for Theodore McCarrick.

And we must pray for the church.


7. Vatican contrast on Pell, McCarrick driven by doubt about guilt.

By John L. Allen Jr., Editor, Crux, February 27, 2019

Like virtually everyone in Catholic circles, the Vatican has known since December about Cardinal George Pell’s conviction in his native Australia for alleged sexual offenses against two minor boys in 1996. As a result, Rome was not at all caught off guard when news of the conviction made the rounds Tuesday, after a gag order was lifted.

The statement read aloud to reporters Tuesday by Vatican spokesman Alessandro Gisotti was not, therefore, cobbled together under tight deadline pressure. On the contrary, officials had three months to ponder what they wanted to say when the moment came.

That truth makes it all the more striking how little the statement actually said – no word about any Church trial of Pell, nothing about taking away his cardinal’s red hat or expelling him from the Catholic priesthood, all of which happened to Theodore McCarrick of the United States in what, in Church terms, was the mere blink of an eye.

How does one explain the difference? It’s actually fairly simple: Early on, senior officials were convinced of McCarrick’s guilt. With Pell, they still aren’t.

If Pell’s conviction is upheld and convincing evidence emerges that solidifies belief in his guilt, he’ll no doubt face the same fate as McCarrick, and the Vatican will face the same hard questions about who knew what and when. Pope Francis was compelled to promise a thorough review of the Vatican’s archives on McCarrick, and he’d almost certainly have to do the same thing on Pell.

In the minds of many of the people responsible for such decisions, however, that moment has not yet come with George Pell – and therein lies the difference between two cases which, otherwise, may seem remarkably similar.


8. Homecoming.

By George Weigel, First Things, February 27, 2019

In the mid-1980s, my wife and I were invited to a baptism and to the post-christening reception at the home of the newborn’s parents. During the latter festivities, I was introduced to a young man who was working on a doctorate in Church history at Harvard. We fell into conversation and after twenty minutes or so I had had one of those rare experiences that are so precious in life: I knew, instinctively, that Borys Gudziak and I were going to be close friends for a very long time.

I had no idea, then, what a singular life Borys had already lived, nor what drama the future held in store for him. The son of Ukrainian immigrants who had come to America after World War II to escape communist persecution in their homeland, he had grown up in Syracuse, New York, thinking himself a future star in the National Basketball Association. After recognizing that slightly built, six-foot-tall Ukrainian-Americans were not avidly sought by NBA teams, he adjusted his career plans and undertook both an advanced degree in history and a theological education. The latter came, in part, by personal instruction in Rome from the great Cardinal Josyf Slipyj, the exiled leader of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church (UGCC), who had been pried out of the Gulag by Pope John XXIII—and who was the model for the “pope from the East” in Morris West’s novel, The Shoes of the Fisherman.

On February 18, it was announced that Pope Francis had accepted the nomination of the Synod of the UGCC and was naming Bishop Gudziak the head of the Greek Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia.

Welcome home, my friend. We are blessed to have you back among us.


9. Why the Case against Cardinal George Pell Doesn’t Stand Up.

By George Weigel, National Review Online, February 26, 2019, 5:07 PM

With the lifting of the trial judge’s order banning coverage of the conviction of Cardinal George Pell this past December on charges of “historical sexual abuse,” the facts can finally be laid out for those willing to consider them. (Disclosure: Cardinal Pell and I are longtime friends.)

Victoria police commenced an investigation one year before any complaints had been filed. During that investigation, the police took out newspaper ads seeking information about any untoward behavior with minors at the St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Melbourne —without any hint of such misbehavior having been received by the authorities.

Once charges had been laid and Cardinal Pell had returned to Australia from his post at the Vatican, a committal hearing (to determine whether the charges were capable of being tried) was held. The committal-hearing judge threw out several charges but allowed others to go forward — even though she observed that she would not vote to convict on several charges, she thought they should be tried anyway.

Cardinal Pell’s lawyers will of course appeal. The appeal will be heard by a panel of senior judges, who can decide that what is called in Australia an “unsafe verdict” — one that the jury could not rationally have reached on the basis of the evidence — was rendered and that therefore Pell’s conviction is null and void. For Cardinal Pell’s sake, and for the reputation of the justice system in the state of Victoria, one must hope that the appellate judges will do the right thing.


10. Maryland’s end-of-life bill is about one thing: Killing.

By Ryan T. Anderson, Washington Post Online, February 25, 2019
Ryan T. Anderson is the William E. Simon senior research fellow in American principles and public policy at the Heritage Foundation.

It’s called the End-of-Life Option Act. That sounds appealing — until you realize that one of the options on offer is killing.

Patients and doctors should have a full array of dignified end-of-life options. But there’s a reason, for two and a half millennia, doctors have taken the Hippocratic oath: “I will keep [the sick] from harm and injustice. I will neither give a deadly drug to anybody who asked for it, nor will I make a suggestion to this effect.” 

Physicians devoted to their patients’ care should not be in the killing business.

Human life doesn’t need to be extended by every medical means possible. Doctors can help their patients to dignified, natural deaths. But killing their patients or helping them to kill themselves is a whole different ballgame — a horror that advocates of physician-assisted suicide seek to conceal behind euphemisms such as “death with dignity” and “aid in dying.” 

This debate over physician-assisted suicide distracts us from pursuing real health-care options at the end of life. Lawmakers should be considering how to expand choice and dignified options for patients, options such as palliative care, hospice care and pain management.

The End-of-Life Option Act advances a dignity-denying, final solution to end-of-life challenges.

Death comes for us all. And no one would be safe from this dangerous bill.