1. Australian cardinal jailed to await sentencing, After judge orders Pell to be held, Vatican announces investigation.

By A. Odysseus Patrick, The Washington Post, February 28, 2019, Pg. A24

Cardinal George Pell, the most senior Catholic prelate to be convicted of sexual assault, was taken into custody Wednesday to await sentencing by an Australian judge. 

At the conclusion of a hearing in Melbourne to consider evidence about the appropriate sentence, Judge Peter Kidd ordered Pell to be held in jail, pending his decision.

Pell did not ask for bail, and it was not offered, which suggests that a prison term is inevitable. Pell bowed to the judge as he was escorted out of the courtroom by security guards while watched by a packed public gallery.

Soon after Pell was taken into custody, the Vatican on Wednesday announced that it opened an investigation after the guilty verdict. If the case progresses, it could lead to canonical punishments, including defrocking.


2. Justices appear inclined to narrowly uphold WWI cross.

By Robert Barnes, The Washington Post, February 28, 2019, Pg. A6

A majority of the Supreme Court on Wednesday seemed to be searching for a way — a narrow one, most likely — to allow the Bladensburg Peace Cross commemorating World War I dead to remain where it has stood for nearly 100 years.

Conservative members of the court indicated they did not believe the Constitution’s prohibition on government establishment of religion requires the removal from public life of all symbols of faith.

Two of the court’s four liberals suggested the passage of time and the unique nature of World War I memorials may provide a way to accommodate the 40-foot-tall cross, which sits in a highway median in Maryland.

But more than an hour of oral arguments showed the difficulty the court faces when it tries to devise a test for anything more than a case-by-case examination of when a religious symbol on public land has an allowable secular purpose or is an unconstitutional embrace of religion.

It suggested the prospect of a narrow decision on the cross in question and splintered opinions on how to proceed in future cases.


3. The Right Hurts Its Own.

The Wall Street Journal, February 28, 2019, Pg. A16, Review & Outlook

Senator Josh Hawley is upset that we called him out for spreading bad information about judicial nominee Neomi Rao and says that in our “rush to smear” him we erred on the law. Let’s start at the beginning and describe why Mr. Hawley is the one who has done the smearing.

We’ve been following Ms.Rao’s nomination closely because of the stakes for the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals and future nominees. Democrats have tried to portray some of her college writing as racist and sexist, and if they succeed they will make the White House less likely to nominate solid nominees with similar paper trails.

Mr. Hawley saw an opportunity to raise his political standing with social conservatives at the expense of a talented conservative nominee who clerked for Justice Clarence Thomas (who has also co-taught a course with her at George Mason). Mr. Hawley did so based on scant evidence, including a second-hand recollection of a decade ago. Then his staff used the media to spread other dubious claims about Ms. Rao’s jurisprudence.

Mr. Hawley met with Ms. Rao on Wednesday, and we’ll see what he does in committee on Thursday. If she isn’t confirmed, the country will have lost a fine jurist. Democrats will claim another political victory, and conservatives will have consumed one of their own.


4. A Symbolic Procession For Abortion Rights.

By Iliana Magra, The New York Times, February 28, 2019, Pg. A7

Twenty-eight women dragged 28 suitcases across Westminster bridge in London this week to protest restrictive abortion laws in Northern Ireland and demand the expansion of abortion rights.

The number of protesters was not random: The 28 demonstrators symbolized “the 28 women who are forced to make the lonely journey to England to access abortion services every week,” Grainne Teggart, the Northern Ireland campaign manager for Amnesty International, said in a phone interview on Wednesday.

Anti-abortion protesters also held a counter-demonstration in Westminster on Tuesday. They carried pink balloons and placards bearing the words “protect every human.”

The group’s main poster also read, “100,000 people are alive today because of Northern Ireland’s laws on abortion.”


5. Expert says follow-up to anti-abuse summit won’t be an ‘easy ride’.

By Inés San Martín, Crux, February 28, 2019

Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston, who leads the papal commission on minors, went further at a press conference on Friday, when he said he wants to see a report from the Vatican detailing who knew what and when about McCarrick. He also said he believes that report will include information sent to the Holy See by the four dioceses where McCarrick served, meaning New York, Metuchen, Newark and Washington, D.C.

After the four-day gathering, Zollner is convinced that those places around the world where the Catholic Church has yet not “dealt with these issues in a prominent way” will “do so now.”

Such a global approach was the key expectation set by Francis in advance of the summit.

Speaking with journalists on his way back from Panama in January, he said the meeting would guarantee that the entire Church, represented by 114 presidents of bishops’ conferences, heads of Eastern Churches in communion with Rome and bishops of missionary territories, together with the heads of the male and female religious orders, is on the same page.


6. Vatican financial intelligence led to conviction of UK abuser priest.

By John Allen and Claire Giangravé, Crux, February 28, 2019

Although the Vatican has come under fire in the UK for its alleged lack of cooperation in a public sex abuse probe, sources have told Crux it was actually Vatican financial intelligence that led to the arrest and conviction of the abuser priest at the heart of the inquiry.

“This is an important fact,” one source told Crux. “It’s a game-changer, because it shows that the new legislation [adopted by Pope Francis] on reporting duties is working.”

In fact, the story captures an intersection of reform efforts on the two most persistent sources of scandal for the Vatican in recent decades – sexual abuse and money.

At present, a public inquiry in the UK is examining the case of the Benedictine monastery of Ealing Abbey in West London, where a former abbot, Andrew Soper, and a former deputy head teacher of its junior school, David Pearce, both have been jailed for abuse of children.

David Enright, a prominent lawyer representing victims of abuse in Catholic schools, has written to British Prime Minister Theresa May, urging her to expel the pope’s ambassador in the country, American Archbishop Edward Adams, for refusing to hand over documents requested by the probe.


7. The Colorado AG Targets the Catholic Church.

By Francis J. Pierson, Crisis Magazine, February 28, 2019

Catholics in Colorado were recipients of a recent bombshell in the form of an agreement between our three Catholic dioceses and the State Attorney General’s office. According to the agreement there is to be a new ‘independent review’ of every priest’s file in the state going back seven decades to 1950. 

In other words, the Attorney General is asking the Church in Colorado to prove that it’s “clean” despite the AG’s insistence that, “this is not a criminal investigation.”

What it does appear to be is another case of state’s attorney generals who like to “shake down” highly visible organizations like the Catholic Church, tobacco companies, pharmaceuticals, etc. for publicity and/or monetary settlements. The question for many Colorado Catholics is, Why here? Why just now? Why only the Catholic Church? In fact, numerous reports have long concluded that after the home, where the majority of sexual abuses of minors occur, the next most likely place to uncover abuse is in the public schools.

In December 2016, USA Today reported, “Despite decades of repeated sex abuse scandals─America’s public schools continue to conceal the actions of dangerous educators in ways that allow them to stay in the classroom.” That journal’s year-long investigation found, “that education officials put children in harms way by covering up evidence of abuse, keeping allegations secret, and making it easy for abusive teachers to find jobs elsewhere.” Does that sound like a familiar litany, when applied to certain bishops? A 2017 Associated Press investigation reported approximately 17,000 cases of abuse against K-12 students over a four-year period (compared to 70).


8. The Pell Affair: Australia Is Now on Trial.

By George Weigel, First Things, February 27, 2019

Has it occurred to anyone else debating the perverse verdict rendered against Cardinal George Pell, which convicted him of “historic sexual abuse,” that the cardinal did not have to return to his native Australia to face trial? As a member of the College of Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church and a Vatican official, Pell holds a Vatican diplomatic passport and citizenship of Vatican City State. Were he guilty, he could have stayed put in the extraterritorial safety of the Vatican enclave, untouchable by the Australian authorities. But because Cardinal Pell knows he is innocent, he was determined to go home to defend his honor—and, in a broader sense, to defend his decades of work rebuilding the Catholic Church in Australia, the living parts of which owe a great deal to his leadership and courage.

As the facts finally come out, reasonable people around the world are now coming to see that at virtually every point in this tawdry process, the justice system has failed Cardinal Pell, who freely returned home to defend himself. That system has also failed Australia. The cardinal’s attorneys will now appeal; the appellate panel of judges can, and should, agree with the appeal’s claim that the second jury could not have rationally reached a guilty verdict, given the complete refutation of the prosecution’s case by the defense. This was, in the technical terminology of Australian law, an “unsafe verdict.” But the verdict was not “unsafe” for Cardinal George Pell alone. 

If it is not reversed on appeal, that false verdict will constitute a new indictment: the indictment of a legal system that could not bring itself to render justice in the face of public hysteria, political vendetta, and media aggression. Which means that Australia—or at least the State of Victoria, where this travesty has played out—is a place where no one is safe, citizen or visitor.