1. Cardinal Wuerl apologizes to priests, McCarrick victim, says he forgot he knew about harassment allegations.

By Michelle Boorstein, Washington Post Online, January 16, 2019, 7:38 AM

D.C.’s embattled Catholic leader, Donald Wuerl, under fire in recent days for untruthful statements regarding what he knew about the alleged sexual misconduct of his predecessor, Theodore McCarrick, apologized late Tuesday, saying he forgot he knew about the allegations and that it was “never the intention to provide false information.”

Wuerl apologized to former priest Robert Ciolek in the evening and then sent a letter to the priests of the archdiocese, where Wuerl is the acting administrator. Pope Francis received Wuerl’s retirement as archbishop earlier than expected last fall as the cardinal was being pummeled by criticism over his handling of abuse cases when he was the Pittsburgh bishop, and also by suspicions that he was not being fully honest about what he knew of the McCarrick scandal.

[Cardinal Wuerl’s letter to the priests]

In the letter, Wuerl said he forgot he was told in 2004 about Ciolek’s complaint against McCarrick, which he said was included in a report sent to the Vatican. The ex-priest, in testimony then to the Pittsburgh Diocese’s Review Board, said McCarrick pressured seminarians to sleep in double beds with him, requested and gave the subordinate unwanted back rubs and caused Ciolek trauma because he knew that Ciolek had been abused by clergy as a teen.


2. Archdiocese starts site for reporting complaints.

By Michelle Boorstein, The Washington Post, January 16, 2019, Pg. B4

The lack of oversight of bishops — other than by the pope — has been a central issue in the sexual abuse crisis that has boiled in the United States since last summer. Some survivor advocates immediately called the Baltimore system insufficiently independent.

Archbishop William Lori called a rare meeting of reporters and staffers who work on abuse-related topics Tuesday to announce the creation of the system, which allows people to send complaints directly to the two senior members of the archdiocese’s Independent Review Board.

The system, called EthicsPoint, is meant not for pastoral complaints but for allegations of criminal or ethical violations, such as those about sexual or financial misconduct and mismanagement. If the complaint alleges a civil law has been broken, said archdiocese spokesman Sean Caine, the two board members must report it immediately to civil authorities and to the Vatican’s ambassador in the United States.


3. Jesuits release Names of Accused Priests.

By Leslie Brody and Melanie Grayce West, The Wall Street Journal, January 16, 2019, Pg. A10A

Saying they hoped to help heal pain and anger, leaders of the Jesuits in New York and New England released a list Tuesday of 50 clergy who had credible allegations of abuse of a minor made against them since 1950.

The alleged sexual incidents were decades old, and most clergy on the list have died. Many worked at schools, including some elite Roman Catholic institutions. In some cases, victims received financial settlements. Two of the priests are incarcerated.

Mr. Cecero said the list includes any allegations where the offense was admitted or established as credible by a preponderance of evidence after an investigation. He said any living Jesuit with a credible abuse allegation was removed from ministry.


4. Lawsuits Challenge Abortion Rules.

By Jacob Gershman, The Wall Street Journal, January 16, 2019, Pg. A3

Abortion-rights activists concerned about the shrinking number of abortion providers are mounting court challenges to longstanding state laws that forbid anybody but doctors to perform the procedure.

Lawsuits pending in at least nine states are seeking to strike down statutes that make it a crime for clinicians such as highly trained nurses and midwives to provide early-term abortions.

Taken together, the cases represent the strongest push by abortion-rights groups to build upon a recent Supreme Court decision that put more of a burden on states to justify the medical benefit of abortion regulations limiting women’s access. 

Between 1982 and 2014, the number of clinics, hospitals and doctors’ offices offering abortions fell from 2,900 to a little under 1,700, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research group that supports abortion rights. The drop has been steep in rural states, where many of the lawsuits have been filed.


5. Pope to attend all sessions of high-stakes abuse summit.

By The Associated Press, January 16, 2019, 6:37 AM

Pope Francis has confirmed he will attend all sessions of his high-stakes sex abuse prevention summit next month that will include plenary meetings, witness testimony and a penitential Mass.

The Vatican said Wednesday that the organizers of the Feb. 21-24 meeting met last week in Rome and briefed the pope on their preparations.

Francis tasked the former Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, to moderate the plenary sessions of the meeting.

Francis announced in September that he was inviting presidents of bishops’ conferences around the world to attend the summit amid a crisis in his papacy over his own botched handling of abuse cases and a new explosion of the scandal in the U.S., Chile and beyond.


6. Disgraced U.S. Ex-Cardinal Could Be Defrocked Soon: Vatican Sources. 

By Reuters, January 16, 2019

Disgraced former U.S. cardinal Theodore McCarrick is almost certain to be defrocked in the next few weeks over allegations against him, including sexual abuse of minors, two Vatican sources said.

Last July, McCarrick became the first Catholic prelate in nearly 100 years to lose the title of cardinal. The allegations against him date back to decades ago when he was still rising to the top of the U.S. Church hierarchy.

McCarrick, 88, has responded publicly to only one of the allegations, saying he has “absolutely no recollection” of an alleged case of sexual abuse of a 16-year-old boy more than 50 years ago. 

The Vatican said a “canonical process” was taking place and that there would be no comment until it ends.

Pope Francis, who has the final say in the case, wants it completed before heads of national Catholic churches meet at the Vatican from Feb. 21-24 to discuss what is now a global sexual abuse crisis, three sources said.


7. Why Science Strengthens the Pro-Life Argument.

By Andrea Picciotti-Bayer, Real Clear Politics, January 16, 2019, Commentary
Andrea Picciotti-Bayer is legal adviser for The Catholic Association Foundation.

Can science undo the havoc that Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey wreaked on America?  The country’s leading pro-life leaders believe so.  “Unique From Day One:  Pro-life Is Pro-science,” the theme for this year’s pro-life March for Life, focuses on the natural alliance between mother and child.

This year the March for Life will showcase experts on modern ultrasound and other tools of fetal monitoring and the benefit that these tools offer to expectant parents. These scientific and technical advances reveal the vitality of the developing child at the earliest stages in pregnancy.

Science reveals the mother-child bond — a bond which is decidedly not adversarial (at least not until the teen years).  Our legal tradition, by contrast, currently considers a woman’s developing child as adverse to her liberty.  This shouldn’t be surprising.  Courts resolve cases and controversies between adversaries.  One side wins, one side loses.  But when it comes to abortion, the law – unlike science — is getting farther and farther from catching up with the truth.    

Perhaps the Supreme Court will incorporate new science and revise how courts consider abortion regulations and limitations.  But even if the court fails to do so right away, Americans can still look to science — the hard science of ultrasounds, fetal monitoring and embryology — to see the irrefutable connection between mother and child. And that it is a mutually enriching bond that ought to be supported, not severed.    


8. Why Does the Number of Iraq Christians Continue to Dwindle?, The founder of a charity dedicated to assisting the beleaguered populace explains.

By Edward Pentin, National Catholic Register, January 16, 2019

ISIS may be practically gone in northern Iraq, but Christians now face another challenge: the Shabak, a Shia group that is more subtly pushing Christians out of their towns on the Nineveh Plain.

To properly assess this latest threat, Father Benedict Kiely, the founder of Nasarean.org, a charity helping persecuted Christians, returned to the region in the first days of 2019.

His visit included once-Christian towns on the Nineveh Plain — Bartella, Qaraqosh and Karamlesh — struggling to rebuild after ISIS invaded in 2014. The towns were liberated by Iraqi forces three years later.

Father Kiely explains in this Jan. 9 interview with the Register the continued uncertainty facing the ever-dwindling number of Iraqi Christians, why they must have greater local political representation in such a tribalized society, and how the United States still plays a crucial role in helping Christians return and thrive to the area, as they had done for millennia.


9. Baltimore church leaders handing over files amid abuse probe.

By David McFadden, The Associated Press, January 15, 2019, 4:54 PM

The Catholic archdiocese in Baltimore has delivered over 50,000 pages of internal files to Maryland’s top law enforcement official amid an investigation into child sex abuse and is in the process of handing over more, church leaders announced Tuesday.

Archbishop William Lori described the clergy sex abuse scourge that’s been rocking the church as a “genuine crisis” and said Baltimore’s archdiocese is “working very hard to cooperate” with Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh’s investigation. Lori asserted that any credible allegations have long been sent to the attorney general’s office so their hope is the documents “will be helpful in the process of being transparent and forthright about all of this.”

“For quite some time, certainly going back to 2002 if not before, every time we’ve had a credible accusation we have sent that not only to local law enforcement but also to the attorney general’s office. So there was already a lot on file from us,” Lori said at a Tuesday gathering for reporters at the archdiocese’s headquarters, situated across from the first Roman Catholic cathedral built in the United States.

Bishop Adam Parker, the archdiocese’s chief of operations, told reporters that they are preparing and delivering decades-old church files to the attorney general’s office on a rolling basis. He said there haven’t been any recent allegations within the archdiocese.


10. Why Didn’t Cardinal Wuerl Come Clean?, Four possible explanations for Cardinal Wuerl’s puzzling and shocking behavior. 

By Joan Desmond, National Catholic Register, January 15, 2019

Last week, U.S. Catholics learned that Cardinal Wuerl knew that his disgraced predecessor, Theodore McCarrick, had faced allegations of sexual misconduct with seminarians back in 2004.

And when Cardinal Wuerl was accused of lying about his knowledge of McCarrick’s misbehavior, his spokesman argued last week that his public comments had been misunderstood: He had only denied prior knowledge of the allegations against McCarrick that involved minors.


So let’s state the obvious: Based on the evidence at hand, Cardinal Wuerl knew about McCarrick’s sexual misconduct with adults at least 14 years ago, and lied about it.

That said, Wuerl’s refusal to acknowledge the truth is even more puzzling, given his past effort to flag McCarrick’s misbehavior. Back in 2004, when Wuerl served as Bishop of Pittsburgh, he informed the papal nuncio about a claim against McCarrick filed by a former New Jersey seminarian.

Wuerl’s actual motives may come to light in the coming months, after the U.S.-based investigation into the McCarrick cover-up is completed. For now, here are some possible explanations for Cardinal Wuerl’s puzzling and very shocking behavior.