1. Pope Names Special Investigator of Alleged Sex-Abuse Cover-Up: Pope Francis had drawn heavy criticism for dismissing accusations in Chile as slander.

By Francis X. Rocca, The Wall Street Journal, January 31, 2018, Pg. A7

Pope Francis, under heavy criticism for dismissing accusations that a Chilean bishop covered up clerical sex abuse, appointed a special investigator to examine possible new evidence in the case.

The Vatican announced Tuesday that Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta would travel to Santiago by order of the pope, “on account of some new information” in the case of Bishop Juan Barros, to interview witnesses who have come forward.

Sex-abuse victims have accused Bishop Barros of witnessing and failing to report assaults by the Rev. Fernando Karadima, whom the Vatican in 2011 judged guilty of abusing minors and ordered to a life of prayer and penitence. Father Karadima has insisted on his innocence and Bishop Barros has denied knowledge of Father Karadima’s actions.


2. Parolin: No person can claim to be “exclusive interpreter” for Chinese Catholics.

By Charles Collins, Crux, January 31, 2018

In the wake of criticism of the Vatican’s overtures to the communist government in China from the former Bishop of Hong Kong, the pope’s chief advisor said the Vatican’s negotiations move along two lines: Constructive openness to dialogue and fidelity to the genuine Tradition of the Church.

Italian Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican’s Secretary of State, told the Italian newspaper La Stampa that although it was legitimate to have different views on how to approach China, “no personal point of view can be considered as an exclusive interpreter of what is good for Chinese Catholics.”

The interview was published two days after Cardinal Joseph Zen, the 86-year-old retired Bishop of Hong Kong, wrote an open letter on Facebook criticizing a request by a Vatican diplomat visiting China that two bishops belonging to the underground Church loyal to the pope step down in favor of two bishops belonging to the state-sanctioned Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association (CPCA).

“The Holy Father personally follows current contacts with the authorities of the People’s Republic of China. All his collaborators act in concert with him. No one takes private initiatives. Frankly, any other kind of reasoning seems to me to be out of place,” Parolin said.

The cardinal also said “no one should cling to the spirit of opposition to condemn his brother or use the past as an excuse to stir up new resentments and closures,” and said some might be asked to “make a sacrifice” for the greater good of the Chinese Church.

Parolin also said the Church’s pastors should help the faithful “to recognize in the pope’s guidance the sure reference point for grasping God’s plan in the present circumstances.”


3. The Catholic Church Doesn’t Do “Paradigm Shifts”. 

By George Weigel, George Weigel is Distinguished Senior Fellow of Washington, D.C.’s Ethics and Public Policy Center, where he holds the William E. Simon Chair in Catholic Studies, First Things, January 31, 2018, Opinion

A “paradigm shift” signals a dramatic, sudden, and unexpected break in human understanding—and thus something of a new beginning.

So are there “paradigm shifts” in the Church?

The evolution of the Church’s understanding of the gospel over the centuries is not a matter of “paradigm shifts,” or ruptures, or radical breaks and new beginnings; it’s a question of what theologians call the development of doctrine. And as Blessed John Henry Newman taught us, authentic doctrinal development is organic and in continuity with “the faith once . . . delivered to the saints” (Jude 1:3). The Catholic Church doesn’t do rupture: that was tried 500 years ago, with catastrophic results for Christian unity and the cause of Christ.   

So it was unfortunate that Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Secretary of State of the Holy See, recently described Amoris Laetitia, Pope Francis’s apostolic exhortation on marriage and the family, as a “paradigm shift.”

Whatever he may have intended, the cardinal cannot have meant that Amoris Laetitia is a “paradigm shift” in the sense of a radical break with previous Catholic understandings. For the Catholic Church doesn’t do “paradigm shifts” in that sense of the term, and the Pope himself has insisted that Amoris Laetitia does not propose a rupture with the Church’s settled doctrines on the indissolubility of marriage and worthiness to receive Holy Communion.

Where something similar to a Kuhn-type “paradigm shift” is underway, however, is in the reception of Amoris Laetitia in various local churches—and this is ominous.

This fragmentation is not Catholic. Catholicism means one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and unity is one of the four distinctive marks of the Church. That unity means that the Church embodies the principle of non-contradiction, such that a grave sin on the Polish side of the Oder River can’t be a source of grace on the German side of the border.

Something is broken in Catholicism today and it isn’t going to be healed by appeals to paradigm shifts. In the first Christian centuries, bishops frankly confronted and, when necessary, fraternally corrected each other. That practice is as essential today as it was in the days of Cyprian and Augustine—not to mention Peter and Paul.


4. Vatican chides Hong Kong cardinal over China disclosures.

By Nicole Winfield, Associated Press, January 30, 2018, 1:27 PM

The Vatican effectively rebuked the retired archbishop of Hong Kong for suggesting that Pope Francis was out of the loop on negotiations between the Holy See and China, saying Tuesday that the pope was “faithfully” informed about developments and followed the issue with care.

The Vatican said reports to the contrary were “surprising and regrettable” and fostered “confusion and controversy.”

The retired archbishop, Cardinal Joseph Zen, published a Facebook post Monday that revealed the behind-the-scenes drama over contentious bishop nominations in China. Zen’s extraordinary post said the Vatican had asked a legitimate “underground” bishop to stand down in favor of an excommunicated one favored by Beijing for Shantou diocese.


5. Vice President Mike Pence “Disappointed” 44 Democrats and 2 Republicans Voted for Late-Term Abortions.

By Cortney O’Brien, Life News, January 30, 2018, 11:22 AM

The Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which bans abortion after 20 weeks, failed to pass the Senate Monday. The legislation passed the House of Representatives last year, but Democrats derailed it today in the upper chamber, with a final vote of 51-46.

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) could not understand how his colleagues on the other side of the aisle could be so heartless.

Pro-life groups shared Hatch’s outrage.

“A majority of senators have voted to end the barbaric practice of late-term abortion,” said Ashley McGuire, a Senior Fellow with The Catholic Association. “This reflects the will of the American people, an overwhelming majority of whom want to ban the gruesome procedure. Regularly referred to as “common ground” for both pro-choices and pro-lifers, this is a common sense and moderate measure that only brings the United States in line with most other developed nations that have long banned it. Sadly, Democrats still in the grip of the powerful abortion lobby refuse to let America take this important step forward.”


6. Vatican: Despite ‘Regrettable’ Reports, Francis Is Well-Informed on China: Holy See statement responds to letter by Cardinal Joseph Zen of Hong Kong.

By Hannah Brockhaus, Catholic News Agency, January 30, 2018

On Tuesday the spokesman for the Pope, Greg Burke, sent a statement asserting that Pope Francis is well-informed on the situation of the Catholic Church in China and that it is “regrettable” that some members of the Church have said the contrary, thereby sowing “confusion and controversy.”

The Jan. 30 statement declared that “the Pope is in constant contact with his collaborators, in particular in the Secretariat of State, on Chinese issues and is informed by them faithfully and in detail on the situation of the Catholic Church in China.”

He also follows closely “the steps in the dialogue in progress between the Holy See and the People’s Republic of China,” the statement continued, and “it is therefore surprising and regrettable that the contrary is affirmed by people in the Church, thus fostering confusion and controversy.”

Burke’s statement contradicts a letter by Cardinal Joseph Zen of Hong Kong, who wrote Jan. 29 that, at a recent meeting, Pope Francis was “surprised” to learn about the handling of conflict between the Church and the Chinese government, about which he had been reportedly informed in October 2017.


7. Pope dispatches ex-top cop on sex abuse to hear case against Chilean bishop.

By Inés San Martín, Crux, January 30, 2018

After protests over a bishop accused of covering up sexual abuse marred his Jan. 15-18 trip to Chile, Pope Francis has decided to send Archbishop Charles J. Scicluna of Malta to listen to those who’ve “manifested their will to make known elements they possess” against Bishop Juan de la Cruz Barros Madrid, appointed by Francis in 2015 to the Diocese of Osorno.

Scicluna is a former top prosecutor for sexual abuse crimes in the Church under Pope emeritus Benedict XVI, whose most celebrated prosecution involved the late Mexican Father Marcial Maciel Degollado, founder of the Legion of Christ, who was found guilty in 2006 and sentenced to a life of “prayer and penance.”

The news came in a statement released by the Vatican’s press office on Tuesday, saying only that “regarding some recent affirmations” concerning Barros, Francis decided to send Scicluna, who currently serves as president of the Vatican’s doctrinal team dealing with appeals filed by clergy accused of abuse.