1. Pope’s Amazon document due Wednesday amid married priest row.

By Nicole Winfield, Associated Press, February 7, 2020, 7:46 AM

Pope Francis will release his eagerly-awaited document on the Amazon next Wednesday, with attention focused on whether he will approve calls by the region’s bishops to ordain married men to address a priest shortage there.

Francis has long said he appreciates the discipline and the gift of celibacy, and didn’t feel he could make such a sweeping change. But he has also expressed sympathy for the plight of the Amazonian faithful, and said theologians had debated pastoral reasons to consider an exception, which is possible given the celibate priesthood is a tradition of the Roman church, not a matter of doctrine.


2. Legion Elects U.S. Superior Amid New Abuse, Cover-Up Crisis.

By Associated Press, February 7, 2020, 3:06 AM

The Legion of Christ religious order, discredited years ago by its pedophile founder, has elected an American priest as its new superior as it seeks to recover from new sex abuse and cover-up scandals that have renewed calls for it to be disbanded.

The Rev. John Connor, 51, is the first American to lead the Mexico-based order. His election Thursday was a sign that the Legion’s heavily Mexican hierarchy realized it needed to send a signal that it is changing course, 10 years after it first promised reform.

The papal delegate named to run the Legion, the late Cardinal Velasio De Paolis, was given broad powers to purify the order of Maciel’s toxic influences and renew it. But during four years of reform, De Paolis focused on rewriting the order’s constitutions and refused to reopen covered-up cases of sex abuse involving other Legion priests.

Those cases are now coming to light, casting doubts on the Vatican’s reform.


3. Argentina’s bishops call for prayer for life as government seeks to legalize abortion.

By Inés San Martín, Crux, February 7, 2020

As the Argentinian government prepares a bill to decriminalize abortion and make it “safe, legal and available to all women,” the bishops’ conference launched a campaign titled “Yes to women, yes to life,” the focal point of which will be a Mass on March 8, International Women’s Day.

The Mass will be celebrated in the national shrine of Our Lady of Lujan, patroness of Argentina. The central intention of the liturgy will be to “ask for the protection of human life until natural death.”

The convocation is led by the Executive Commission of the Argentinian bishops’ conference, and after mostly staying in the background during the discussions of a similar bill in 2018, the bishops are now taking a more clear, direct stance in opposing the measure, instead of asking the laity to lead the Church’s campaign.


4. Missionaries of Mercy in Response to the Kairos of Mercy.

By Fr. Roger Landry, The Anchor, February 7, 2020, Opinion

In the Gospel, Jesus would regularly huddle the apostles after they had returned from the journeys on which he had sent them out to preach and heal, so that they might report all they had done and taught (Mk 6:30-31).

Something similar happened in Lexington, KY, January 21-23, as the Missionaries of Mercy from the USA and Canada convened, in a spirit of prayer and fraternity, to speak with the Lord and each other about the fruits and challenges of four years of work witnessing to the Gospel of mercy.

Missionaries of Mercy, you may recall, were appointed by Pope Francis during the Jubilee of Mercy in 2016 as a conspicuous sign of “God the Father’s readiness to welcome those in search of his pardon” and the “Church’s maternal solicitude for the People of God.” 1,142 priests from around the world were given a special mandate to be “persuasive preachers of mercy,” to commit themselves in a particular way to hearing confessions with the “authority to pardon even those sins reserved to the Holy See,” and to serve as “personal witnesses of God’s closeness and of his way of loving.”

Their mandate was supposed to expire on the last day of the Jubilee, but in the document Pope Francis published for that occasion, he wrote, “This extraordinary ministry … I wish it to continue until further notice as a concrete sign that the grace of the Jubilee remains alive and effective the world over.” He invited Missionaries, with the approval of their bishops or religious superiors, to recommit themselves to the task. 791 priests did, of whom 127 are Americans. I’m humbled to be among them.

While the Missionaries have met twice in Rome with our colleagues from around the world, several U.S. Missionaries, spearheaded by Msgr. George Majoros of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, thought it would be worthwhile for those of us in the U.S. and Canada to convene to build fraternity and collaboration, pray together, examine the situations we face in common, explore best practices in responding to them, and rededicate ourselves to the blessed responsibility we have been given.

Pope Francis, echoing Saint John Paul II, has stressed that we are living in a kairos, or special time, of mercy. The Missionaries of Mercy are one of Pope Francis’ responses to that kairos and those of us in the US and Canada are eager to be part of that mobilization, so that, as Pope Francis prayed, the grace of the Jubilee of Mercy will remain alive and effective from sea to shining sea.


5. God Goes Missing in ‘Little Women’: The Oscar contender is distinctive, but leaves out a critical part of the story.

By Charlotte Allen, The Wall Street Journal, February 7, 2020, Pg. A13, Opinion

This weekend director Greta Gerwig’s adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s “Little Women” is up for six Academy Awards, including Best Picture. It is the seventh feature film to be made from Alcott’s book and perhaps the most distinctive. Unfortunately, the latest film leaves out an important theme from the original text: faith.

In Alcott’s “Little Women” each of the March girls has besetting sins that she must overcome through constant striving.

Ms. Gerwig’s film has many virtues and is certainly a “Little Women” for this age. But it is not the “Little Women” that Louisa May Alcott wrote: a tale of delightful, fun-loving young girls who learn through folly, disappointment, sorrow, and moral reckoning that their lives are actually pilgrimages to the Celestial City.

Ms. Allen is the author of “The Human Christ: The Search for the Historical Jesus” (Free Press, 1998).


6. McCarrick Report Expected Soon but Pope Has Last Word: Vatican Official.

By Reuters, February 6, 2020

Work on a Vatican report into disgraced ex U.S. Cardinal Theodore McCarrick is complete and it may be released in the near future but Pope Francis will have the final word on timing, the Vatican’s number two said on Thursday.

There is great anticipation for the report in the United States because it may show McCarrick managed to rise through the ranks although his history of sexual misconduct with adult male seminarians was an open secret.

McCarrick, who has been living in seclusion in the United States, has responded publicly only to the allegations of abuse of minors, saying he has “absolutely no recollection” of them.


7. Trump Puts Global Religious Freedom in the Political Fray.

By Associated Press, February 6, 2020

The day after Trump touted his support for domestic religious liberty in his State of the Union address, the State Department rolled out a list of 26 nations that have joined the International Religious Freedom Alliance. Trump lauded the alliance in Thursday remarks at the National Prayer Breakfast, vowing that his administration is “standing up for persecuted Christians and religious minorities all around the world, like nobody has ever done.”

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, addressing representatives from the member nations in Washington on Wednesday night, lauded them as “an alliance of like-minded partners who treasure and fight for international religious freedom for every human being.”

While Trump took flak from some on the left for leading with Christian references in his invocations of religious freedom this week, Pompeo singled out persecuted minority populations that include the Yazidi sect in Iraq and the Rohingya Muslim population in Myanmar.


8. Attorney general to release report on clergy abuse claims.

By Jennifer McDermott, Associated Press, February 6, 2020, 1:57 PM

Rhode Island’s attorney general said Thursday he expects to release a public report later this year with findings from his review of allegations of sexual abuse by Roman Catholic clerics in the state.

Democrat Peter Neronha continues to review the allegations to figure out what happened, what the response was and whether anyone can be held responsible in Rhode Island, one of the most heavily Catholic states.


9. States use Catholic clergy abuse lists to screen applicants.

By Claudia Lauer and Meghan Hoyer, Associated Press, February 6, 2020, 10:29 AM

In the wake of revelations that scores of Roman Catholic priests and religious workers credibly accused of child sexual abuse are living unsupervised in communities across the country, state officials face a quandary: Should they screen former clergy members who seek licenses for jobs that put them in contact with children? And, if so, how?

An Associated Press investigation last fall found nearly 200 accused clergy members had been granted teaching, mental health or social work licenses, with roughly six dozen still holding valid licenses to work in those fields in 2019.

Since then, at least 20 states have started using church-released lists of priests and employees who faced credible allegations to screen applicants or check for current state teaching, foster care and therapy licenses — and, in some cases, have revoked credentials.

Over 5,300 priests, clergy members and a handful of lay employees — more than 2,000 of them still living — are on the lists. But because most were never convicted of a crime, the allegations of child abuse never appeared in licensing background checks, the AP’s investigation revealed.

For many education or licensing departments, using the diocesan lists can be difficult because of state statutes governing what can be considered when deciding to issue or revoke a license. Some agencies allow only for criminal background checks, while others also permit a check of the state’s child abuse and neglect database.


10. Abortion measure clears another key hurdle in Florida.

By Bobby Caina Calvan, The Washington Post, February 6, 2020, 11:38 AM

Republican lawmakers in Florida moved closer to enacting legislation to require parental consent before a minor can get an abortion, clearing a key hurdle Thursday in the state Legislature.

After a civil but passionate hourlong debate, the Senate voted 23-17 along party lines to endorse the measure, which now awaits action in the state House. Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, has said he supports the effort in the GOP-led Legislature.

Florida would join 26 other states in requiring at least one parent give written permission authorizing a doctor to terminate the pregnancy of a minor.


11. Coronavirus Creates New Problems for China’s Persecuted Religious Minorities: Disease outbreak has had a ‘dramatic’ effect, according to Italian Catholic sociologist Massimo Introvigne.

By Lauretta Brown, National Catholic Register, February 6, 2020

he World Health Organization declared the deadly coronavirus a “global health emergency” last week — and China’s vulnerable and persecuted religious minorities, including Christians, could be at particular risk as the Asian nation’s health crisis worsens.

That’s the warning that Italian Catholic sociologist Massimo Introvigne, founder of the Center for Studies on New Religions in Turin, Italy, delivered in Washington Tuesday regarding the negative effects the coronavirus is having on China’s religious minorities.

Introvigne, editor of Bitter Winter magazine that monitors religious liberty in China, told the Register that the coronavirus already has had a “dramatic” effect on persecuted religious people like the Uyghur Muslims and Christians. He said that the outbreak has had two effects on religious minorities in China.

“Those who want to escape now, even if they have a visa, there are no flights, and the effectiveness of the visa they may have to Italy and some other countries is suspended, so it’s more difficult or even impossible to escape,” he explained.

“Italy has sealed the border to the Chinese so people who planned to escape, perhaps for months and perhaps got a good Italian visa from an Italian consulate, now they are stuck, and they are in danger of being arrested if the [Chinese] authorities understand that they really tried to escape.”

The second effect, according to Introvigne, “is on those who have massive jail populations like the Uyghurs or the Church of Almighty God — the risk that the disease will spread into jails where conditions are even worse than outside the jails.”


12. Buffalo Seminary Closure Speaks Volumes to Other Dioceses: The decision removes a source of toxins that the seminary injected in the life of the local Church.

By Father Raymond J. de Souza, National Catholic Register, February 6, 2020, Opinion

The closure of Christ the King Seminary in Buffalo, New York, is sad news, insofar as it is always sad when an institution is no longer capable of doing what it was founded to do. But Christ the King stopped doing that a very long time ago, and so its closure is also welcome news.

It staunches the financial bleeding for the diocese, as the seminary ran an annual deficit of $500,000 a year. That was the main reason offered for its closing, as Buffalo seeks to recover its footing after the resignation of its bishop and in the face of a new wave of sexual abuse lawsuits.

But to vary the medical metaphor, the closure also removes a source of toxins that the seminary injected in the life of the local Church.

There will be laments — many of them sincere — for the closure of Christ the King. Certainly, over many decades there was some good accomplished there and many priests look back on their time there with fondness. Yet on balance the preservation of Christ the King as an institution was a mistake. Therein lies a tale for other dioceses.

Christ the King was not unusual among seminaries in falling into a period of doctrinal confusion and/or moral corruption in the 1970s and 1980s. It was a widespread problem in the Church, in diocesan seminaries and even more so in religious houses. Yet many of them began a slow process of reform in the 1990s, rooting out doctrinal dissent in teaching and demanding virtuous behavior of both faculty and seminarians.

Christ the King somehow missed out on that reform stage, as has been covered recently in the Register. As scandals swirled around Buffalo these past two years, Christ the King was often at the center.

Given the sad state of the Buffalo Diocese, a change in culture is needed. Sending their men to seminaries outside the diocese may contribute toward that.

The amputation of a seminary from the body of a local Church is indeed traumatic and regrettable. But even worse is maintaining a diseased limb.


TCA Media Monitoring provides a snapshot from national newspapers and major Catholic press outlets of coverage regarding significant Catholic Church news and current issues with which the Catholic Church is traditionally or prominently engaged. The opinions and views expressed in the articles do not necessarily reflect the views of The Catholic Association.
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