1. Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulchre Reopens, Easing Tensions: Israeli authorities suspend demand for more taxes from churches, easing friction with Christian leaders. 

By Dov Lieber and  Rory Jones, The Wall Street Journal, February 28, 2018, 3:46 AM

Christian leaders reopened Wednesday one of Jerusalem’s holiest sites after Israeli authorities suspended a demand for churches to pay tens of millions of dollars in taxes, easing a standoff that highlighted simmering tensions between Palestinian Christians and Israelis.

The closure of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, believed to mark the burial site of Jesus, had meant thousands of Christians were unable to visit the popular pilgrimage site for three days. Clergymen closed the church on Sundayto protest city taxes and a proposed Israeli parliamentary bill to confiscate land sold by church authorities.

The clash underscored friction between the mainly Palestinian Christian community in Jerusalem and Israeli authorities after President Donald Trump’s controversial decision to recognize the city as the capital of Israel. Palestinian officials want the eastern part of Jerusalem, where the church is located, to be the capital of a future Palestinian state.


2. Reflections on Francis and the deconstruction of the ‘Imperial Papacy’. 

By John L. Allen Jr., Crux, February 28, 2018

As we near the five-year anniversary of Francis’s election to the papacy next month, it’s becoming steadily clearer that a core aspect of his legacy may be a deconstruction of the strong “imperial papacy” many observers believe has taken shape over the last century or so.

Some of the choices contributing to that development seem to have been quite conscious and carefully planned, others largely thrust on Francis by circumstance, but in either case the result is the same.

Several individual pieces of the picture have helped bring that idea to focus.

To begin with, I recently did a TV bit with a longstanding friend, Frank Rocca of the Wall Street Journal, who made the point that Francis has either sidelined or, at least, weakened the traditional centrality of several Vatican departments, including the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.

Moreover, Francis also has reduced the profile of the CDF simply by not always taking his cues from it on key doctrinal matters, sometimes preferring instead to consult his own advisers and experts.

Rocca said out loud during our TV discussion that perhaps one effect of all this would be to weaken the Vatican going forward, making it more difficult to “roll back” Francis’s legacy even if the next conclave were to choose a strong pope determined to do so.

On another front, during this week’s “Crux of the Matter” radio show on the Catholic Channel, which airs on Sirius XM 129 Mondays at 1:00 p.m. Eastern time, my colleagues Inés San Martín, Claire Giangravé and I conducted one of our “Vatican Potpourri” segments, discussing the big Vatican stories of the past week.

One of the stories on the rundown was the situation in the Diocese of Ahiara in Nigeria, where Francis last summer essentially threatened to bring down the wrath of God on any priest who wouldn’t submit to a new bishop appointed under Benedict XVI who’s never been able to set foot in the diocese, due to opposition related to his cultural and linguistic background.

Yet on Feb. 19, Francis accepted the resignation of the very prelate, Bishop Peter Ebere Okpaleke, whose acceptance he had previously declared a red line – in June 2017, dramatically charging that those opposed to the bishop “want to destroy the church and are committing mortal sin.”


Both San Martín and Giangravé were way ahead of me in connecting the dots between that story and reported developments in ongoing negotiations between the Vatican and China, as part of which Francis is said to be prepared to hand over a key role in the selection of Catholic bishops to the Chinese government.

The common term is that both stories raise this question: Ultimately, who’s in charge of picking bishops? Is it the pope, a national government, a noisy crowd of protestors who just refuse to go away, or who, exactly?

In both cases, Francis seems to have accepted relinquishing some of the autonomy in episcopal selections the Vatican has striven so mightily over the last century to achieve, in pursuit of a perceived greater good – peace in the diocese in Nigeria, and closer ties with one-fifth of humanity and a global superpower in China.

There’s a difference between weakening the Vatican, or the papacy, as institutions, and the manner in which a given pope wields the authority he still holds – and even in the most wildly decentralized version of Catholicism one can imagine, that authority is going to be considerable. 

In theory, too, a future pope could reverse all of these choices – wresting back control over liturgical texts, scrapping the deal with China, ramming a bishop of his choosing into Ahiara, and beefing back up the role of the Vatican’s traditional heavyweight offices.

History, however, teaches that power, once abdicated, can be difficult to regain.

When we write up this pope’s legacy, alongside the “Pope of the Poor” and the “People’s Pope,” we may also need to make room for “Francis the Deconstructor.”


3. Ohio asks court not to revisit abortion clinic ruling.

By Associated Press, February 28, 2018, 12:07 AM

Ohio’s health department is asking the state Supreme Court not to revisit a decision that upheld the shuttering of an abortion clinic.

Justices ruled the department was within its rights when it revoked the license of Capital Care of Toledo. At the time, the clinic didn’t have a required patient-transfer agreement with a local hospital.

Days after the ruling, the ProMedica hospital system authorized such an agreement. The clinic cited that development in a filing last week seeking reconsideration.


4. Bill spurred by Nassar case concerns Catholic Church.

By David Eggert, Associated Press, February 28, 2018

A Michigan bill inspired by the Larry Nassar scandal that would retroactively extend the amount of time child victims of sexual abuse have to sue their abusers is drawing concerns from the Catholic Church, which has paid out billions of dollars to settle U.S. clergy abuse cases.

Past bills to give victims more access to the legal system have stalled in Michigan, partly because of opposition from the Catholic Conference. Advocates for change say giving victims just a year to sue after turning 18 protects child molesters because survivors often wait to report the abuse due to fear or because they repressed it.