1. Pope Pulls Scourge of Sexual Abuse of Nuns Out of Shadows.

By Jason Horowitz, The New York Times, February 7, 2019, Pg. A6

The sexual abuse of nuns and religious women by Catholic priests and bishops — and the abortions that have sometimes resulted — has for years been overshadowed by other scandals in the Roman Catholic Church.

That seemed to change this week when Pope Francis publicly acknowledgedthe problem for the first time.

“I was so happy,” said Lucetta Scaraffia, the author of an article denouncing the abuse of nuns and religious lay women by priests that was published this month in a magazine, Women Church World, which is distributed alongside the Vatican’s newspaper.

Speaking from her Rome apartment, which she said had essentially been converted into a television studio full of international reporters, Ms. Scaraffia said, “Finally, now many women will have the courage to come forward and denounce their abusers.”

The pope’s remarks on Tuesday, in response to a question posed on the papal plane about Ms. Scaraffia’s article, came after decades of persistent allegations of such abuses, and seeming Vatican inaction, which has now collided with the heightened awareness of the #MeToo era. They also came just ahead of anextraordinary conference of bishops on sexual abuse scheduled this month at the Vatican.

“When the Holy Father, referring to the dissolving of a congregation, spoke of ‘sexual slavery’ he meant ‘manipulation,’ ” the pope’s spokesman, Alessandro Gisotti, clarified in a statement to reporters on Wednesday.

Advocates of abused nuns were relieved the pope had at last put the issue on the church’s radar. But they also noted that it was a long time coming and that the pope’s other remarks Tuesday did not inspire confidence in a speedy solution.


2. Feds can survey church’s land for border wall, judge rules. 

By Dudley Althaus and Katie Zezima, The Washington Post, February 7, 2019, Pg. A11

A judge ruled Wednesday that the federal government can begin surveying land for a border wall on property that houses a small Texas church against the wishes of the local Roman Catholic Diocese, setting up a potentially lengthy fight as the church claims a wall would violate its religious freedom.

The diocese owns the chapel grounds but leases it to the city as a park. Bishop Daniel Flores has resisted the government surveys on the grounds that any constructed barrier “violates his religious beliefs,” said Mary McCord, a Georgetown University law professor representing the diocese. “The Church believes any access violates the sacred nature of the place.”


3. Jehovah’s Witness Sentenced to 6 Years.

By Ann M. Simmons, The Wall Street Journal, February 7, 2019, Pg. A9

A Russian court sentenced a Jehovah’s Witness to six years imprisonment for organizing activities associated with an outlawed extremist group, in a case that indicates a widening crackdown on members of the banned faith group and tests Russian tolerance for religious freedom. 

Dennis Christensen, a 46-year-old carpenter from Denmark, was found guilty Wednesday of violating a Russian law that bans activities by groups deemed to be terrorist organizations, according to information published by the court. The law barred Jehovah’s Witness groups from operating in the country in 2017.

“It suggests that dark times are approaching in Russia, when you can be imprisoned for believing in God,” Yaroslav Sivulsky, a representative of the European Association of Jehovah’s Witnesses, said of the ruling. “Jehovah’s Witnesses are not extremists. There is nothing, no signs of extremism, not in their teaching, not in their way of life, or their ideas.”

In 2016, Russia passed amendments to antiterrorism laws that included tighter restrictions on the activities of religious groups, particularly smaller sects, such as Jehovah’s Witnesses. The new measures prohibit “missionary activities” such as preaching, praying, proselytizing, and distributing religious materials outside of officially-designated sites, and groups that break the rules face charges of violating laws on extremism.


4. Abortion and the right to stay alive, Late-term abortions return focus to the personhood of a human fetus.

By Andrew P. Napolitano, The Washington Times, February 7, 2019, Pg. B3, Opinion

Much has been made lately of language in a recently enacted New York state statute that permits abortion up to the time of birth if necessary to preserve the life or health of the mother. New Jersey has had the same provision for two generations via a regulation of the Board of Medical Examiners.

Sadly, when New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the new legislation into law two weeks ago, he did so in a joyful and celebratory atmosphere. What moral person could find joy in this?

The personhood of a human fetus is not a mere academic question. If the fetus is a person, then it is protected from abortion by the Fifth and 14th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, which command the government to protect equally the lives of all people. But Roe did not stop with the personhood issue. It also decreed that the states may not regulate abortions in the first trimester of a woman’s pregnancy, may regulate in the second trimester only for the health of the mother and may prohibit or permit abortions in the third trimester.

Yet here is the kicker, which has been below the Roe radar screen while 55 million babies have had their lives snuffed out in the past 46 years. Roe decreed that all states must permit abortions at any time in the pregnancy if necessary to save the life or preserve the health of the mother. Pregnancies that threaten the life of the mother are extremely rare, thanks to modern medicine. However, thanks to Roe’s little-known companion case, Doe v. Bolton, the phrase “the health of the mother” can mean the physical, mental, psychological or emotional health of and (inexplicably) the age of the mother.

The dirty secret of abortion law is that mothers and abortion physicians may legally let unwanted babies born alive suffer and die with impunity. What about personhood? Isn’t a living baby a person entitled to the equal protection of the laws? Under the natural law, yes. Under the Constitution, yes. Under Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton, no.

No society that permits the active or passive killing of people because they are unwanted can long survive. No society that defines away personhood has any claim to knowing right from wrong. Whose personhood will the government define away next?

Andrew P. Napolitano, a former judge of the Superior Court of New Jersey, is a regular contributor to The Washington Times. He is the author of nine books on the U.S. Constitution.


5. ‘Zero tolerance’ doesn’t seem an inflated expectation for pope’s summit.

By John L. Allen Jr., Editor, Crux, February 7, 2019

Twice now, and with ascending levels of authority, we’ve been cautioned not to expect too much from the summit on clerical sexual abuse Pope Francis has called for Feb. 21-24 for the presidents of bishops’ conferences around the world.

First came the Vatican’s new editorial director, veteran Italian journalist Andrea Tornielli, who penned a Jan. 10 editorial complaining of media “hype” over the meeting, quipping that it’s being covered as if it were “halfway between a council and a conclave.”

Then on his way home from World Youth Day in Panama in late January, Francis waded into the fray during an in-flight news conference.

“Let me say that I’ve perceived expectations that are a little inflated,” he said. “We need to deflate those expectations.”

To some extent, these efforts to frame expectations are completely reasonable, because it is artificial to expect three days in Rome to change the world. Further, since so much of the action in the anti-abuse effort is local, success will rise or fall not on what happens here, but in the various places to which these bishops must return.

Reasonable people likely would agree that expecting the pope to uphold his own public commitments hardly seems “inflated.”

In less than a month, we’ll find out whether Francis thinks so too.


6. Religious leaders applaud pope’s UAE trip, but want to see next steps. 

By Inés San Martín, Crux, February 7, 2019

Pope Francis on Tuesday concluded the first-ever papal visit to the United Arab Emirates and the Arabian Peninsula, and many of the 700 religious leaders who were on hand agreed in calling the event “historic,” while also acknowledging that it remains just one step of the many that need to be taken.

“I feel this is a historic visit, because it’s the beginning of a new era,” Imam Mohamad Bashar Arafat told Crux at the closing of the “Human Fraternity” interreligious summit that took place Feb. 3-4 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.

Born and educated in Damascus, Syria, Arafat today is the president of the U.S.-based Civilizations Exchange and Cooperation Foundation.

Cardinal Joseph Coutts from Pakistan said he was “very impressed” with the meeting in the UAE, adding that the religious freedom he first encountered in this country 37 years ago, when he served as a pastor for the Pakistani community, continues. He noted that of the seven emirates that compose the country, all have at least one church, with the lands donated by the ruling family.

Speaking about the conference itself, he highlighted the theme: Human fraternity.


7. Wojtyłan Fantasies, Revisited.

By George Weigel, First Things, February 7, 2019

For almost three decades the Catholic left has turned intellectual somersaults arguing that John Paul II didn’t write, and indeed couldn’t have written, what the rest of the literate world recognizes as a guarded endorsement of regulated markets in the 1991 encyclical, Centesimus Annus. The further charge from the fever swamps is that I, along with several friends and colleagues, willfully distorted the pope’s teaching in an effort to spin him into some sort of papal libertarian or neo-liberal. Alas, for those who continue to chew this cud, their argument implies that the man whose teaching they claim to be defending was a fool who didn’t know who his friends were or what they were doing.   

A little chronology (available in much greater detail in my memoir, Lessons in Hope: My Unexpected Life with St. John Paul II) should set the record straight for those capable of learning from it. 

That “culture first” approach to politics and economics—which has always been at the center of my analyses of Centesimus Annus—has been thoroughly vindicated in the decades since the encyclical was first published. Political appeals to base motives and economic appeals to crass acquisitiveness have done serious harm to the freedom project in the West. In that sense, John Paul II’s mature social ethical thought is more important than ever for serious thinkers and leaders to engage, in a conversation crucial to the future of the West, and indeed the entire world. 

Conspiracy theories about non-existent networks of influence determined to distort the teaching of John Paul II and advance a “neo-liberal” agenda (whatever that is) are an obstacle, not a contribution, to that conversation. 


8. Trump calls for ‘culture that cherishes innocent life’ in SOTU address.

Catholic News Agency, February 6, 2019, 11:00 AM

The president’s annual state of the union address received a divided response after highlighting life issues. The chamber of the House of Representatives showed a clear divide in the legislature over President Trump’s call for a late-term abortion ban, with pro-life advocates offering their own reactions after the speech. 

In the speech, delivered Tuesday evening, Trump encouraged lawmakers to choose “results” over “resistance” while making the traditional call for bipartisan cooperation. 

These politicians are “out of touch with the American people,” said McClusky. “It is time for politicians, regardless of party, to stand up in favor of protecting innocent life.” 

Ashley McGuire, senior fellow at the Catholic Association, agreed with McClusky, describing the call to end late-term abortions as a “welcome change from the left’s celebration of third-trimester abortions and infanticide.” 


9. A Nation That Destroys Its Infants Destroys the Common Good.

By Fr. Roger Landry, National Catholic Register, February 6, 2019
Fr. Roger J. Landry is a priest of the Diocese of Fall River, Massachusetts and the National Chaplain of Catholic Voices USA.

Last Saturday, Pope Francis welcomed to the Vatican leaders of the Italian pro-life movement the day before Italy’s annual pro-life day, held since 1978 on the first Sunday of February.

The Pope spoke powerfully about how “the defense of life is not carried out in only one way, or with one gesture, but it’s done in a multiplicity of actions, attentions and initiatives; nor does it concern some persons or certain professional realms, but it involves every citizen and the complex web of social relations.”

Catholics in a particular way, he added, are called to “be leaven to spread a style and practices of reception and respect for life in the whole ‘dough’ of society, [which] must always be a jealous and firm custodian of life.”

Pope Francis’s reflections provide a Catholic lens with which to look at the very disturbing events that have just occurred in New York and Virginia, and seem to be on the way to Rhode Island and Massachusetts.

On Jan. 22, the 46th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, as faithful Catholics in the United States were observing a day of prayer and penance in reparation for the nearly 60 million children who have legally been killed in the womb since that judicial travesty, Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York was holding a celebration in Albany.

Some, like Cuomo, Tran and Northam, think that such intentional killing of little children is something to be proud of, that the whole world should be lit in pink while the crimson blood of babies stains latex gloves and forceps. No longer is there the political need, they think, to say that abortion should be “safe, legal and rare.” Now it should be celebrated as a great human rights advance and women should unabashedly brag about their abortions. The more, the merrier.

The question is: What’s it going to take for voters, especially Catholic voters, to conclude that those who celebrate the destruction of human life in the womb as if it’s the Fourth of July, who desecrate monuments and landmarks to gloat about it, who think that babies who survive abortions should be allowed to die without medical assistance, do not represent their values?

And when will they resolve to do something about it?