1. Pope wants bishops to punish sex abusers, not cover up cases. 

By Nicole Winfield, The Associated Press, January 16, 2019, 8:43 AM

Pope Francis is insisting that bishops attending his high-stakes sex abuse prevention summit will learn the laws to use against predators, how to care for victims and will make sure that no cleric abuse cases are covered up again.

The Vatican on Wednesday provided details about the Feb. 21-24 meeting, saying its main aim is to guarantee that bishops around the world “clearly understand what they need to do to prevent and combat the worldwide problem of the sexual abuse of minors.”

Francis will attend the full summit, which includes plenary meetings, working groups, witness testimony, a penitential service and a final Mass on Feb. 24.


2. Saving Nigeria’s Christians, Focusing solely on Boko Haram risks leaving the broader religious conflict unaddressed.

By Tamara Winter, The Washington Times, January 17, 2019, Pg. B3, Opinion

Last month, Amnesty International released a new report that outlined the costs of a dangerous and often deadly cycle of violence occurring in Nigeria’s Middle Belt region between Christian farmers and Muslim herders — 3,600 people have been killed in the past 3 years, with 2018 being the worst year on record so far.

The Amnesty report is the latest warning that the situation in the Middle Belt is worsening. These concerns have been echoed by others from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to the U.K.’s Humanitarian Aid Relief Trust, chaired by Baroness Caroline Cox, and local Nigerian religious organizations such as the Saint Raphael’s Society of Nigeria. Ahead of Nigerian elections in February, which have the potential to cause further divisions, the Trump administration has now begun to acknowledge the scale of the problem.

The administration recently designated Boko Haram an Entity of Particular Concern, a designation for non-state entities engaging in severe religious freedom abuses. This is a necessary, but not enough to end sectarian violence in Nigeria’s troubled regions.

The Nigerian government has undoubtedly made progress, quelling Boko Haram’s ambitions for territorial expansion by limiting the group’s active presence to small villages across the countryside. However, in November the government suffered a major setback when members of one Boko Haram faction overran a military base, killing over 100 Nigerian soldiers and leaving an untold number of additional troops missing.

Yet, a designation from America alone will not be enough. Nigerian Christians need action from President Buhari, who has the power, using the strength of the Nigerian military to end their suffering. Pressure from Washington D.C. is an essential step to accomplish this.


3. Vatican urges global collaboration, more prosecutions to fight trafficking.

By Elise Harris, Crux, January 17, 2019

In two new documents on migration and human trafficking released Thursday, the Vatican has emphasized the need to step up international collaboration and prosecution of traffickers, while also providing support to victims.

Spearheaded by the Migrants and Refugees section of the Vatican dicastery for Integral Human Development, the two documents were released Jan. 17 and presented to media by the two undersecretaries of the office who oversee the section, Italian Monsignor Fabio Baggio and Canadian Jesuit Father Michael Czerny, along with the head of the Vatican communications department, Italian layman Paolo Ruffini.

Described in the preface as wanting to offer “a reading of human trafficking and an understanding that motivates and sustains the much-needed long-term struggle,” the main objective of the pamphlet is to be a resource for schools, parishes, religious orders and civil organizations who want to get involved on the issue.


4. Planned Parenthood challenges Wisconsin abortion laws. 

By Scott Bauer, The Associated Press, January 16, 2019, 5:08 PM

Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin asked a federal judge on Wednesday to repeal state laws that make it more difficult for women, particularly in rural areas, to receive abortions.

The lawsuit filed in federal court in Madison targets restrictions enacted by the Republican Legislature under former Gov. Scott Walker. The lawsuit comes 10 days after Walker left office, replaced by Democratic Gov. Tony Evers.

Planned Parenthood wants to repeal laws requiring that only doctors perform abortions; women seeking medicine that causes abortions see the same doctor on two separate visits; and doctors be physically present when dispensing abortion-causing drugs.


5. Nothing About Us Without Us.

By George Weigel, First Things, January 16, 2019

The slogan “Nothing about us without us” was used by Solidarity in the 1980s in Poland, borrowing a royal motto from the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in the mid-second millennium. Then, it was expressed in Latin: Nihil de nobis sine nobis. Later, it appeared in Polish on the banners of 19th-century Poles fighting their country’s partition by Russia, Prussia, and Austria: Nic o Nas bez Nas. Today, it’s often used by disability activists asserting their claim to be fully participant in society.

“Nothing about us without us” also applies to the Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for the Pan-Amazon Region, which will meet in Rome in October. 

That Synod will involve seven bishops’ conferences from nine Latin American countries who will consider their pastoral situation under the theme, “Amazonia: new paths for the Church and for an integral ecology.” As is usually the case in these meetings, the bishops at the Synod will work with materials drafted in Rome. Early indicators from the Synod’s preparatory document suggest that the Amazonian Synod will be longer on environmentalism than on theology. International media attention will doubtless focus on the Synod’s discussion of climate change and its relationship to Amazonian deforestation.  

Recent synodal history suggests, however, that more will be afoot at the Amazonian Synod than what its announced theme suggests.  


6. Ben Sasse Corners Democrats on Knights of Columbus Dispute in Judicial Nomination.

By Kevin Daley, The Daily Caller, January 16, 2019, 5:53 PM

GOP Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska introduced a Senate resolution Wednesday providing that it is unconstitutional to disqualify a nominee from public office based on their membership in the Knights of Columbus.

The resolution, which The Daily Caller News Foundation obtained in advance of its introduction, comes after Democratic Sens. Mazie Hirono of Hawaii and Kamala Harris of California pressed a judicial nominee to the federal trial court in Nebraska about his affiliation with the knights, a Catholic mutual benefit society with almost 2 million members worldwide.

Sasse’s resolution passed without opposition just after 6:00 p.m. on Wednesday, following a floor speech in which the senator extolled the importance of religious liberty.

A Marist poll sponsored by the Knights of Columbus released Wednesday found that 85 percent of respondents — including 90 percent of Democrats — said religion should not be a factor when assessing someone’s fitness to serve in the federal government.


7. Pro-life Congress members ask Trump to veto any bills that expand abortion. 

By Christine Rousselle, Catholic News Agency, January 16, 2019, 04:38 PM

Pro-life members of Congress this week sent U.S. President Donald Trump two companion letters requesting that he veto any legislation that would weaken current federal pro-life policies and promising to sustain any such veto.

A total of 169 members of the House of Representatives and 49 Senators signed the respective letters. 

“We ask President Donald Trump to continue to his work in defense of life. My colleagues and I are also committed to protecting both unborn children and their mothers from the violence of abortion,” said Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), who led the House letter, in a statement.

Smith added that he was “deeply encouraged” that there were 169 members of the House of Representatives who signed the letter willing to sustain a veto “on the grounds that any pro-life provision has been weakened or removed.”


8. Annual poll shows 75 percent of adults want restrictions on abortion.

By Catholic News Service, January 16, 2019

Just in time for the annual March for Life, an annual poll of Americans’ views on abortion shows that 75 percent want “substantial” restrictions on abortion access even as more than half of respondents describe themselves as “pro-choice.”

Conducted by the Marist Poll at Marist College, the survey of 1,066 adults Jan. 8-10 revealed that respondents would welcome limits on abortion so that it can be performed only during the first three months of pregnancy.

Even 61 percent of “pro-choice” respondents favored such a restriction. Unsurprisingly, 96 percent of respondents who identified as pro-life supported such a restriction.

Among Republicans, 92 percent support abortion limits, while 60 percent of Democrats and 78 percent of independents shared the same view.


9. American Support People of Faith Serving in Government and as Judges.

The Knights of Columbus, January 16, 2019

A new Marist Poll survey finds that Americans overwhelmingly oppose using faith as a factor in appointments to jobs in the federal government. In addition, strong majorities of Americans support protection of religious freedom and think that people of faith should be able to serve as judges and other government appointees.

“Americans rightly support religious freedom and reject religious tests for public office,” said Knights of Columbus CEO Carl Anderson. “Article VI of the Constitution, which forbids religion tests, continues to strongly resonate with the overwhelming majority of Americans, who believe that faith should not be a barrier to someone’s appointment to public service.”

A majority of Americans also support protection of religious freedom in general. By a margin of more than 20 points (55 percent to 33 percent), Americans say freedom of religion should be protected even when it goes against government laws. This includes majorities of Democrats (55 percent), independents (53 percent) and Republicans (59 percent).