1. Vatican letter undermines US cardinal on abuse.

By Nicole Winfield, Associated Press, The Washington Post, January 2, 2019, Pg. A14

The Vatican blocked U.S. bishops from taking measures to address the clergy sex abuse scandal because U.S. church leaders didn’t discuss the legally problematic proposals with the Holy See enough beforehand, according to a letter obtained by The Associated Press.

The Nov. 11 letter from the Vatican’s Cardinal Marc Ouellet provides the primary reason that Rome balked at the measures that were to be voted on by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops at its Nov. 12-14 meeting. The blocked vote stunned abuse survivors and other Catholics who were demanding action from U.S. bishops to address clergy sex abuse and cover-up.

Ouellet’s letter undermines the version of events provided by the conference president, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo. It could also provide fodder for questions during a spiritual retreat of U.S. bishops, dedicated to the abuse crisis, that opens Wednesday in Chicago.

They may want to know why, as Ouellet noted in the letter, the draft proposals only arrived at the Vatican on Nov. 8, four days before the U.S. bishops’ meeting began. While the Vatican is known for its slow pace, even the speediest bureaucracy would have found it difficult to review and sign off on sensitive legal documents in that time.

DiNardo, in his statement to the AP, said he had shared the “content and direction” of the proposals with multiple Vatican offices in October and drafted the final text after encountering no opposition.

“We had not planned, nor had the Holy See made a request, to share the texts prior to the body of bishops having had an opportunity to amend them,” he said.


2. US Catholic bishops to pray over clergy sexual abuse scandal.

By Jeff Karoub, The Associated Press, January 2, 2018, 5:30 AM

U.S.-based Roman Catholic bishops will gather Wednesday for a weeklong retreat near Chicago on the church sexual abuse scandal that organizers say will focus on prayer and spiritual reflection and not formulating policy.

The retreat begins a day after The Associated Press reported that the Vatican blocked U.S. bishops from taking measures last year to address the scandal because U.S. church leaders didn’t discuss the legally problematic proposals with the Holy See enough beforehand.

The rebuke from Rome was contained in a letter from a Vatican official before the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops met in November. The move stunned abuse survivors and some other Catholics demanding actions.

The retreat also is a prelude to a summit of the world’s bishops at the Vatican next month to forge a comprehensive response to the crisis that has lashed the church.


3. Vatican shakeup shows why journalists shouldn’t be corporate mouthpieces.

By John L. Allen Jr., Editor, Crux, January 2, 2019

When news broke on New Year’s Eve that the Vatican’s two official spokespersons, American Greg Burke and Spaniard Paloma Garcia Ovejero, had resigned, words such as “sudden” and “unexpected” figured in many headlines.

One understands the point, as there had been no advance indication their exits were imminent. However, to be completely honest, I didn’t find the move “unexpected” at all, since I’ve been anticipating it since the two were appointed in 2016.

The reason is simple: Burke and Garcia Ovejero are, at heart, journalists, and journalists just aren’t meant to be corporate mouthpieces.

Both, of course, are devout Catholics, and so when the Church asked them to serve, they said yes. Yet that’s precisely the point – the Church arguably should have known better than to ask, because both Burke and Garcia Ovejero are more valuable on the outside looking in rather than the other way around.

Now ask yourself: Would that have been a better use of their time than running what amounts to a gigantic PR copy machine?

In any event, here’s a prediction: We haven’t heard the last of either Burke or Garcia Ovejero on the Vatican beat. Honestly, I suspect their best days lie ahead, as they make their way back to the side of the street where they probably always belonged.


4. A Tough Year Ahead.

By George Weigel, First Things, January 2, 2019

With those sobering but consoling thoughts in mind, I offer a few speculations about 2019, by way of cautions about the rough waters ahead.

There will be further revelations of clerical sexual abuse from decades ago, and the false narrative that there is a rape culture in the Catholic Church today will be reinforced.

More awful details about the behavior of Theodore McCarrick, former archbishop of Washington, will come to light.

At least one U.S. bishop, and possibly several, will resign after revelations of malfeasance and worse in handling reports of sexually abusive clergy under their authority.

The Holy See will run a huge deficit, even as Peter’s Pence contributions continue to fall throughout the world Church.

The persecution of Cardinal George Pell will continue but his conviction on “historic sexual abuse” charges will increasingly be seen by rational people as a grotesque miscarriage of justice motivated by scapegoating, anti-Catholicism, and sordid politics in Australia (and elsewhere).

A tough year lies ahead. Yet Christ, risen and triumphant, remains present and available in the Eucharist, to which serious missionary disciples will have ever more frequent recourse for strength and courage. May His Kingdom come.


5. A Tough Year for the Pope Ends With Spokesman’s Resignation.

By Jason Horowitz, The New York Times, January 1, 2019, Pg. A7

On Monday, amid tumult in a Vatican communications department undergoing an overhaul and ahead of a critical February meeting on clerical sex abuse, Mr. Burke and his deputy, Paloma García Ovejero, abruptly quit.

Their supporters said they had grown frustrated with years of seeking, and failing, to modernize the Vatican’s rickety and anachronistic communications department and to convince the pope and his top lieutenants that in an age defined by media, communications could not be an afterthought.

The Vatican newspaper and radio and other assorted media are oft-ignored outlets for papal speeches and church-focused content, but Mr. Burke and his supporters wanted the press office to have a role in shaping, or at least protecting, the pope’s message on the front lines of social media, international media and global perception. They sought to make clear to Francis and other church leaders that when it comes to how his message plays in the wider world, the pope does not have the benefit of infallibility.
They were apparently ignored.

But Mr. Burke and his aides never cracked the pope’s inner circle, or really even his outer one. And without real access to the pope, and without the buy-in of players in the Roman curia, they were powerless to influence Francis’ message or impose message discipline on a pope whose own blind spots have increasingly led him into danger.

Some longtime papal observers, mindful of the February meeting Pope Francis has called with the presidents of bishop conferences around the world to address the sexual abuse crisis, feared the worst in the unexpected resignations.

“What’s more,” Rocco Palmo, a well-known Catholic commentator and blogger based in Philadelphia, wrote on Twitter, “given the standard rule of crisis communications that you don’t leave in the middle of the storm, but ride it out, to lose both the Vatican’s top press hands (both quite devout) in mid-scandal appears to signal that something has become professionally untenable.”


6. Baltimore Archdiocese moves to insulate fundraising from abuse scandal.

By Jonathan M. Pitts, The Washington Post, January 1, 2019, Pg. B4

As part of an effort to reassure Catholics concerned about the implications of the sex-abuse scandal that has roiled the church, the Archdiocese of Baltimore has changed the name of its annual fundraising drive.

Long titled the Archbishop’s Annual Appeal, the drive will be renamed the Annual Appeal for Catholic Ministries starting in January. The change is meant to reassure donors that the campaign pays for ministry efforts of the archdiocese, not to defray costs associated with the scandal.


7. Top Vatican spokesman and his deputy resign.

By Chico Harlan, The Washington Post, January 1, 2019, Pg. A12

The Vatican capped a tumultuous year Monday by announcing the resignations of its head spokesman, Greg Burke, and his deputy, the figures most responsible for day-to-day dealings with the media.

A statement provided no reason for the departures of Burke and Paloma García Ovejero, but the move magnifies the uncertainty facing the Vatican as it deals with criticism of its slow or opaque responses to the sexual abuse crisis. Over the past year, Pope Francis overhauled much of the Vatican’s sprawling communications office, which includes a newspaper, radio service and publishing house.

But now, ahead of a key global summit addressing the issue of abuse by clergy members, he will need to fill a new job: somebody who can be a public face for the reeling Roman Catholic Church.


8. A year of the death penalty, Twenty-five inmates were executed in 2018. That is 25 too many.

The Washington Post, January 1, 2019, pg. A18, Editorial

Twenty-five inmates were executed in 2018, representing the fourth consecutive year the nation killed fewer than 30 people. Forty-two people were sentenced to death, up only slightly from 2017’s 39, according to the Death Penalty Information Center, a nonprofit organization that releases an authoritative annual report. Though the increase is not cause for celebration, it still represents a massive decline from the nation’s 1996 high of 315.

Meanwhile, death sentences and executions were concentrated in a pack of states in the South and the Great Plains. Traditionally, the death penalty has not been a red state-blue state issue. But, as with so many matters of policy and culture, the presence of the death penalty may become a dividing line separating the nation.

We hope any such distinction would not be a durable one. Extinguishing a human life is the gravest action a government can take. The punishment is also expensive, poorly applied and unnecessary to deter crime. It is past time every state did away with it.


9. The unfair, anti-Catholic conviction of Cardinal George Pell.

By George Weigel, New York Post Online, December 31, 2018, 7:57 PM

Something similar took place last month in real-world Melbourne, Australia, where Cardinal George Pell was falsely and perversely convicted on charges of “historic sexual abuse” dating to the 1990s.

The facts of the case have been hard to come by, owing to a media gag order issued by the trial judge. A journalistic feeding frenzy has long surrounded Pell, the former Catholic archbishop of Melbourne and Sydney and later the Vatican’s chief ­financial officer.

The trial judge was rightly concerned that opening the proceedings would make it impossible for Pell to get a fair trial on charges he forcefully denies. That order has left Australians largely in the dark. But certain facts are known, and others can be reasonably inferred.

The cardinal’s first trial ended in a hung jury, with 10 of 12 jurors in favor of acquittal.

One other facet of this miscarriage of justice deserves investigation by enterprising reporters. Pell was brought to Rome by Pope Francis to clean up Vatican ­finance, a Herculean task in which he was making progress. Then, just as he was getting down to the ­really serious corruption, which involves hundreds of millions of euros and the shadow worlds of global ­finance, these abuse charges were laid, and Pell had to return to Australia to defend himself.

Was that timing sheer accident? Rome-based supporters of Pell’s ­reforming efforts with whom I’ve spoken think not. Just as in Harper Lee’s Maycomb, something is rotten in this business. And it isn’t the character of Cardinal George Pell.

George Weigel, John Paul II’s ­biographer, holds the William ­Simon Chair in Catholic Studies at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.


10. Planned Parenthood New President Leana Wen Claims to Care About Women’s Health, But She Doesn’t.

By Andrea Picciotti-Bayer, LifeNews, December 31, 2018, 6:25PM
Andrea Picciotti-Bayer is a legal adviser for the Catholic Association Foundation.

Be it on TV, social media, or by penning opinion pieces, Planned Parenthood’s new president, Dr. Leana Wen, has been hard at work trying to convince Americans that abortion is mainstream medical care — as American as the flag, apple pie, and, well, motherhood.

You might expect such slick public relations work from Planned Parenthood, the nation’s biggest abortion franchise, which performs more than one-third of all abortions in the United States. Hearing it from a trained medical doctor, however, is confusing, to say the least. Wen has even pointed to her time as Baltimore’s health commissioner, touting her role there as “doctor to the city,” to establish her credentials as someone who really cares about your health.

Wen was hardly an impartial advocate for the medical needs of Baltimore women. Instead, she brought a limited view of women’s healthcare to her job and unlawfully used her post to try to silence the voices of those who support a Baltimore woman’s right to choose life.

Back in 2009, the mayor and city council of Baltimore passed an ordinance requiring pregnancy clinics that do not offer or refer for abortions to post a sign to that effect in their waiting rooms. The law empowered the city’s health commissioner, Wen, to issue notices and impose civil penalties upon noncompliant centers.

The law targeted the Greater Baltimore Center for Pregnancy Concerns, a nonprofit, pro-life pregnancy center operating out of space that a local Catholic church provided. The center offers help, emotional and tangible, to women facing unexpected pregnancies. The free diapers, baby wipes, ultrasounds, and parenting classes are game changers for many pregnant women.

Although no one ever mistook the Greater Baltimore Center for Pregnancy Concerns for an abortion clinic, Wen was ready to fine the center if it failed to post a disclaimer in its waiting room.

The center objected and went to court. This past January, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals handed Wen and company a significant loss in their anti-life campaign. The U.S. appellate court found that Baltimore’s action trampled on the free speech rights of the center. In its opinion, the judges warned Wen against “[w]eaponizing the means of government against ideological foes.”

The upshot: Women in Baltimore facing challenges during their pregnancy can still find support at the center, no thanks to Wen.

Planned Parenthood New President Leana Wen Claims to Care About Women’s Health, But She Doesn’t


11. Turning to Jesus with Sister Wendy Beckett.

By Kathryn Jean Lopez, National Review Online, December 31, 2018 11:06 PM

Sister Wendy Beckett died Christmas week. She was known by most of us because she was on TV. She was an art historian who did a BBC series many have seen. No doubt many more will tune in at this time of her passing. But it was her life of prayer that was the most important part of Wendy Beckett; it was Jesus, her Spouse. It was the Trinitarian life she lived in contemplative prayer that helped her see God more clearly than most of us distracted people do.

And DVDs and interviews on YouTube are not the only pointers to the good and the true and the beautiful that she leaves us. Spiritual Letters, a collection of her letters written to a woman named Ann, is a great place to start. The two were truly Christian friends: Ann encouraging the art commentary and Sr. Wendy providing some bold spiritual direction for her friend.

For those of us who can’t stick with new year’s resolutions, Sr. Wendy liberates us here. It’s not us taking the lead and carrying it out. It’s Him. Be faithful. This is true faith. Following His lead in all of its awesome arduousness. It clears the way for healing and holiness and the lives we are meant to lead. And just as Sr. Wendy tried to do — a contemplative called into the world to help souls to Heaven — we ought to be helping one another see Divine beauty and mercy and meaning and redemption from the Incarnation of the Lord and His calling Sister Wendy Beckett home. May God be good to her and we follow the lead in the new year.

Turning to Jesus with Sister Wendy Beckett