1. The Vatican moves quickly toward punishing ex-cardinal McCarrick for sexual abuse. 

By Michelle Boorstein, Julie Zauzmer and Chico Harlan, The Washington Post, January 10, 2019, Pg. B1
Vatican investigators have finished collecting evidence in the sexual abuse case of disgraced ex-cardinal Theodore McCarrick, according to a person familiar with the investigation, indicating that the Catholic Church is moving quickly toward sentencing the cleric in its secretive justice system.
The former prominent archbishop of Washington, who now stands accused of sexually abusing three minors and harassing adult priests and seminarians, already has become the first U.S. cardinal ever removed from that office due to sexual misconduct allegations. Now, he faces the prospect of soon being defrocked — meaning he would no longer be a priest of the Catholic Church and would lose his church housing and financial support.

Another person in the Vatican, who like others in this report spoke on the condition of anonymity, said he felt that the Holy See waited too long to start the canonical process, the workings of the Vatican’s internal justice system, but that the case is now accelerating. The CDF is now trying to “make up for lost time,” he said.

“I don’t know what the timetable will be. Much depends on the results of those testimonies. But I think it may as well be very short,” he said. “But always respecting the rights of the individuals. They are not trying to be theatrical. They have already done that part by stripping him” of his rank as cardinal.
2. Claims of Abuse in Religious Orders Fall Into Bureaucratic Abyss. 

By Jack Healy, The New York Times, January 10, 2019, Pg. A1
Jesuits, Franciscans, Benedictines, Augustinians: the names are iconic, their founders immortalized by sainthood, their members often bound together by vows of poverty and obedience.
But when a priest or brother in a religious order is accused of abuse, victims and advocacy groups say their accusations are often mishandled because they are caught between separate institutions within the church: the dioceses that say it is not their responsibility to investigate, and religious orders that then fail to handle the claims.
Survivors said the bureaucratic distinction has turned them into second-class victims who frequently fall between the cracks.

After the clerical abuse scandal exploded in 2002, the Conference of Major Superiors of Men adopted its own reforms following the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Orders added victim assistance offices and background screenings for candidates, and hired accrediting companies to audit their sexual abuse responses.
The fate of abusers in religious orders can differ from diocesan priests. A 2013 update on the orders’ response to the crisis says that canon law requires orders not to expel abusers if they are repentant, but to instead try to keep them within their religious communities, under close supervision and away from children.
3. The War of Words on Abortion. 

By Charles C. Camosy The New York Times, January 10, 2019, Pg. A23, Opinion
Mr. Camosy is a board member of Democrats for Life of America.
The struggle in the abortion debate is, in many ways, a struggle over language.
For example, I am pro-life. I strongly support rights and protections for mothers and children, including prenatal children, and other vulnerable populations. I want to see the laws of this country protect these people as well. In my view, this makes me pro-life. That’s why I use the phrase “prenatal child” where other people would say “fetus.”
In the view of those people, and of mainstream news outlets, I am not pro-life; I am anti-abortion. This language allows critics to dismiss me and fellow pro-lifers as single-issue obsessives, which we are not.

We have shifted our language in ways that hide the dignity of the vulnerable, in this instance and on issues far from the abortion debate as well. This is part of what Pope Francis calls “throwaway culture.” What he is describing is often connected with the excesses of consumerism, a culture in which human beings whose dignity is most inconvenient are discarded as mere objects. Such a culture requires the use of language that deadens one’s capacity to show concern for those who need it most.
Pope Francis has saved some of his strongest language for condemning abortion. But he consistently applies his concern about throwaway culture to other populations

A genuine concern for justice for the most vulnerable — one directed at something other than advancing a particular political agenda — must resist throwaway culture across issues that transcend our crumbling right-left politics. People who are committed to justice for the most vulnerable will be on the alert for dehumanizing language intended to confirm biases and serve the interests of those who hold power over the weak.
Doing so is particularly important at this moment. We are likely to see a newly intense debate over abortion at our newly constituted Supreme Court. If we are to avoid the hopelessly stale culture-war debates of the 1970s, then we must refuse the false choice between supporting vulnerable women and protecting vulnerable prenatal children. It will mean genuinely wrestling with the complexity of doing both. And it will mean engaging the arguments of our perceived opponents in good faith.
4. Opus Dei priest in major settlement was never officially restricted from ministry, Chicago archdiocese says. 

By Julie Zauzmer and Michelle Boorstein, Washington Post Online, January 10, 5:00 AM
When a woman who was groped by the priest she turned to for counseling reached a $977,000 settlement with the Catholic community Opus Dei in 2005, she was promised that the priest she claimed harassed her — the Rev. C. John McCloskey, a star in the Catholic world who converted prominent politicians to the faith — would be prevented from doing it again to someone else.
On Wednesday night, two days after Opus Dei publicly acknowledged the huge settlement for the first time, the Archdiocese of Chicago said that at least on paper, McCloskey was in fact allowed to minister with no restrictions for years afterward.
The archdiocese disputed some of the account provided by Opus Dei this week about how the conservative Catholic community handled McCloskey, and provided a 2005 letter from an Opus Dei leader that shows that the leader vouched for McCloskey even though he knew about the settlement.
5. French cardinal likely to be cleared in abuse cover-up trial. 

By Nicolas Vaux-Montagny, The Associated Press, January 10, 2019, 4:26 AM
France’s most important church sex abuse trial to date is likely to end in acquittal for a cardinal and other senior Catholic officials accused of protecting a pedophile priest, despite years of efforts by his victims to seek justice.

But by the time the cover-up trial reached court in Lyon this week, the statute of limitations had expired on some charges. And even the prosecutor argued Wednesday against convicting Cardinal Philippe Barbarin and other church officials, saying there were no grounds to prove legal wrongdoing.

Saying that she “supports no one” in the case, Prosecutor Charlotte Trabaut argued that the statute of limitations had expired on charges of failing to help a person in danger, and that there wasn’t enough proof to convict church officials on the charge of failing to report sexual violence against a minor.
The prosecutor’s office had recommended in 2016 that the case be dropped for those same reasons. But victims used a special procedure to take the case to court anyway.

The case is being watched closely by the Vatican. Pope Francis, whose blind spot on clergy sex abuse has threatened his legacy and thrown the Catholic hierarchy into a credibility crisis, has praised Barbarin as “brave” and said French justice should take its course.
6. In the Pope Francis era, the Eucharist defines doctrinal tussles. 

By John L. Allen Jr., Editor, Crux, January 10, 2019
Famously, Pope Francis isn’t one for spending a lot of time thinking about doctrinal questions or disputes.
The pontiff often mocks theologians for obsessing over the fine print of things, recycling a quote from Patriarch Athenagoras of Constantinople to Pope Paul VI after an historic 1964 meeting: “We’ll bring about unity between us, and then we’ll put all the theologians on an island so they can think about it!”
Try as Francis might, however, he can’t make doctrinal tussles in Catholicism completely disappear, because Christianity is what’s known as a “creedal” religion, meaning one in which belief matters. In reality, each of the past three years of his papacy has been marked by a defining doctrinal debate, and 2019 may turn out to be more of the same.
The fascinating point about those debates is that each, in one way or another, has centered on the Eucharist – suggesting that in the Pope Francis era, Eucharistic theology may be the defining doctrinal divide.
Of Francis’s personal faith in the Eucharist, there can be no question.

However much Francis may poke fun from time to time at the obtuseness or pedantry of theologians, doctrine is part of the lifeblood of the Catholic Church – and in his era, those theologians seem to have plenty to talk about, beginning with what this pope is teaching in both word and deed about the central sacrament of the faith.
7. McCarrick won’t get a full trial. Here’s why you should care. 

By Ed Condon, Washington Post, Online, January 9, 2019, 3:08 PM
Ed Condon is a practicing canon lawyer and an editor of the Catholic News Agency.
Six months after the Archdiocese of New York first announced it had received a “credible” accusation of sexual abuse against then-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, the disgraced former archbishop of Washington could soon find himself dismissed from the clergy altogether.
But instead of conducting a full-blown trial, complete with procedural niceties and room for legal back-and-forth between prosecution and defense lawyers, sources at the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith confirmed that McCarrick’s case is being handled via a stripped-down administrative process, expected to conclude within the next few weeks.
Such an “administrative penal process,” which in canon law is reserved for cases where the evidence is so strong that a full trial is deemed unnecessary, suggests that the chances of a conviction are very high indeed. But even with a quick “result” that strips McCarrick of his clerical status, the case could still cast a shadow over the Vatican’s next phase of reform efforts on sexual abuse in the church.

But what about the seminarians whom McCarrick is alleged to have abused over the decades? Any decision against the former cardinal that leaves their cases unresolved will be incomplete. So too will be any conversation in February that doesn’t take account of adult victims of abuse, or any effort at reform that ignores their legitimate demands for justice.
Many are waiting to see if the pope’s coordinating team for the February summit, which includes Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago, will come prepared to discuss the whole problem of sexual misconduct in the church, or seek a narrower agenda and response to the abuse of minors alone. There will be a temptation for the pope and his advisers to try to keep the conversation limited to the sexual abuse of children, about which no one disagrees and no one can oppose any new reform.
But treating the whole problem now, including the sexual abuse or coercion of adults, is necessary if the church is to avoid storing up a possible future generation of scandals. If they are unwilling or unable to do so, they may yet find that no guilty verdict or punishment can keep the ghost of “Uncle Ted” McCarrick from haunting them for years to come.
8. Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard accuses fellow Democrats of ‘religious bigotry’ in questioning judicial nominee. 

By Felicia Sonmez, Washington Post Online, January 9, 2019, 8:22 PM
Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, a potential 2020 White House contender, is accusing some of her fellow Democrats of “religious bigotry” in their questioning of one of President Trump’s judicial nominees.
Gabbard’s claim, made in an op-ed in the Hill newspaper, drew a rebuke Wednesday from another Hawaii Democrat, Sen. Mazie Hirono.
In the op-ed, Gabbard did not name any names. But she argued that some lawmakers had gone too far in their questioning of Brian Buescher, whom Trump nominated in October to serve as a district judge.
“While I oppose the nomination of Brian Buescher to the U.S. District Court in Nebraska, I stand strongly against those who are fomenting religious bigotry, citing as disqualifiers Buescher’s Catholicism and his affiliation with the Knights of Columbus,” Gabbard said in the op-ed.
9. The Health 202: Justice Kavanaugh could soon reveal his willingness to take on abortion cases. 

By Paige Winfield Cunningham, Washington Post Online, January 8, 2019
The Supreme Court could say as soon as Friday whether it will scrutinize two Indiana laws prohibiting discrimination-based abortions and requiring fetal remains to be buried or cremated — a major indicator of how its new, conservative majority plans to approach the deeply controversial topic of abortion.

Should Kavanaugh shy away from reviewing the Indiana laws, it would certainly be a huge disappointment to abortion foes. 

But Kavanaugh has so far leaned away from the topic. 

So it’s anybody’s guess as to whether Kavanaugh — presumably along with conservative Justices Roberts, Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch and Samuel Alito — will be willing to wade into sticky questions such as whether Indiana and other states can ban a pregnant woman from obtaining an abortion who learns her child would be born with Down syndrome, another genetic illness or physical deformities.

The measure is among a variety of ways Republican-led states have tried to restrict abortion rights on the margins even as the 1973 Roe ruling prohibits them from banning the procedure entirely.

Courts have blocked many of those laws, but they’ve also opened more big questions about how far states can go in restricting access. 
10. Elected leaders who weaponize religion are playing a dangerous game. 

By Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii), The Hill Online, Opinion January 8, 2019, 1:50 PM
While I oppose the nomination of Brian Buescher to the U.S. District Court in Nebraska, I stand strongly against those who are fomenting religious bigotry, citing as disqualifiers Buescher’s Catholicism and his affiliation with the Knights of Columbus. If Buescher is “unqualified” because of his Catholicism and affiliation with the Knights of Columbus, then President John F. Kennedy, and the ‘liberal lion of the Senate’ Ted Kennedy would have been “unqualified” for the same reasons.  

Article 6 of the U.S. Constitution clearly states that there “shall be no religious test” for any seeking to serve in public office.
No American should be told that his or her public service is unwelcome because “the dogma lives loudly within you” as Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said to Amy Coney Barrett during her confirmation hearings in 2017 to serve as U.S. Circuit Court judge in the 7th Circuit.
While I absolutely believe in the separation of church and state as a necessity to the health of our nation, no American should be asked to renounce his or her faith or membership in a faith-based, service organization in order to hold public office.

We must stand together, call out and reject religious bigotry no matter where it comes from, and fight to protect the freedoms and principles that bind us together as Americans.